Effective Educational Leadership
What Good School Leadership is All About
Educational leadership can come from superintendents, principals, coaches or department heads. These individuals have the unique ability to help students and teachers thrive and meet their potentials. There are many things that make a leader a true leader. By focusing on relationship building, setting realistic goals, and being authentic, school leadership can increase its effectiveness in the educational environment.
Relationship building in our schools is absolutely crucial. Teachers are relatively isolated throughout the school day in their classrooms, so it is especially important for leaders to make an effort to connect and communicate with them on a regular basis. With consistent support from principals and department heads, teachers will be more successful and are more likely to use their resources when they need help.
Next, school leaders need to set realistic goals, a task which can be quite challenging. Usually overarching goals are handed down from people and places far removed from one’s school. From the federal and state government on down to district offices, the world has plenty of goals for teachers. With so many benchmarks to worry about, school leaders need to act as liaisons between these goals and their teachers and students.
What Makes a Good Leader
A good educational leader should feel comfortable acknowledging when goals seem out of reach. This kind of honesty can help one seem more credible and in touch with the reality that teachers face. Recognize that it will take a lot of hard work and emphasize that the school leadership, teachers, and support staff are in it together. Likewise, consider making smaller, more reachable goals for your school.
The final key element of successful educational leadership is being one’s authentic self. The most well-run schools I’ve had the pleasure of working in had principals and vice principals who were warm and empathetic. They were not afraid to let their personalities shine at work. Although it is important for school leadership maintain a certain composure in front of students, there is no need to replicate this restraint in professional relationships with teachers.
School Leadership Examples
While the leaders I am describing may seem too good to be true, real educational leaders who are authentic relationship builders and realistic goal setters do exist. Montgomery County, Maryland school superintendent Joshua Starr recently went on record saying that the country needs a three-year moratorium on standardized testing. He states that implementing Obama administration “race to the top” reforms, new Common Core State Standards, and creating new standardized tests required for meeting those standards is not possible. He believes that teachers need more time for collaboration and that we need to address the fact that 22% of students live in poverty, which has significant effects upon student achievement. In response, Diane Ravitch summarized it best: “Superintendents across the nation have told me they share Star’s views. If only they all said so in public, we could reclaim American education from the miasma of bad ideas.”
The Building Blocks of Effective Educational Leadership
Following the example of Mr. Starr, a fourth element that contributes to effective educational leadership becomes apparent: Courage. If all school leadership will focus on building relationships, setting realistic goals, and being authentic, the whole educational environment will benefit. When educators feel supported by their superiors, they will become better teachers and will in turn help their students maximize their educational experiences.