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What is teacher leadership?

A teacher-leader collaborates with fellow faculty

By Cooper Nelson

At a glance

  • Teacher leadership is when a teacher leads not only students but fellow staff members and community as well.
  • Key skills of a teacher-leader are being an effective communicator, a great listener, flexible and able to think out of the box.
  • Creating a teaching philosophy can be an effective way to manage your classroom and inspire others.
  • If you’re looking to build your skill set to become an inspiring teacher-leader, check out online education degrees with University of Phoenix.

What is teacher leadership?

Because teachers are responsible for shaping young minds and inspiring students to achieve their dreams, teaching is a leadership role.

And it’s an important one. Teachers build relationships with students and support them through their most formative years. What’s more, studies indicate a positive relationship between strong teacher leadership and students’ academic performance.

As leaders, teachers have the power to shape their classrooms into places of growth and learning. But how does one do that effectively? How can teachers develop their leadership skills to impact their communities through administrative roles and empower their students to achieve more than they thought possible?

For some teachers, a master’s degree in education can help develop skills necessary to become a better leader and teacher. It imparts practical tools to support student learning and advance students’ academic goals. A master’s degree can also help teachers better understand how education works at various levels, from local school boards to national policies and practices. And it can prepare teachers for future leadership roles by providing a deeper understanding of how education works within communities.

Key skills and attributes of a teacher-leader

Teacher-leaders are teachers who have the knowledge, expertise and qualities to take on greater responsibilities such as mentoring other teachers and overseeing school curriculum. They are responsible for more than their students’ education; they also help students grow into well-rounded adults who can succeed in the future.

Great teacher-leaders display certain qualities, such as:

  • Being a good listener. They’re attentive to the needs of their students and colleagues, and they use that knowledge to make decisions that benefit everyone.
  • Thinking outside the box. They devise creative solutions to problems.

These are just the beginning, however. As outlined below, certain skills and attributes play a central role in effective teacher leadership. 

Great communication

Communication is one of the most important skills for a teacher-leader. Good communicators can give and receive feedback in constructive and valuable ways. Strong communication skills also help teacher-leaders connect deeper with students, parents and colleagues. This allows them to build a strong support system and ultimately become more effective in teaching and leadership roles.

Communication includes knowing how to listen well. Communication, after all, is a two-way street. If you want people to listen to you, you must have something interesting to say. The first step in being knowledgeable is acquiring knowledge through listening.

One way for new teachers to develop their communication skills is by taking communication courses. These classes cover the art of speaking clearly and concisely while conveying information about students’ needs or performance issues.

The ability to inspire

As a teacher-leader, you will want to inspire those around you. Talented teachers are often the leaders of their classrooms and will inspire their students each year. Great teacher-leaders will inspire fellow teachers and administrators as well.

One way to develop this ability is by creating a teaching philosophy statement. Teachers can use this document to communicate their beliefs about education and how they want to teach students. It can also remind them why they chose this profession in the first place.

A teaching philosophy statement should not remain stagnant. As aspiring teacher-leaders gain classroom experience (not to mention experience outside the classroom, such as sitting on boards or via community interaction), the philosophy — and document — can and should evolve.

In addition to underscoring a teacher-leader’s educational philosophy, the statement might address practical concerns like specific methods or techniques they want students to use while learning material.

In creating a teaching philosophy statement, teachers take the first step toward developing their abilities as communicators. 

Lisa Ghormley, associate dean of education

“A teacher-leader [must] serve as an advocate for students of all backgrounds and abilities through instruction that is both thoughtful and relevant,” explains Lisa Ghormley, MEd, the associate dean of education at University of Phoenix. 

“Teacher advocacy doesn’t stop within the classroom. It is pertinent that teacher-leaders also serve as advocates for the educational profession by staying knowledgeable about policies in their school, state and beyond.” 

Flexibility

Being flexible is an important attribute for teacher-leaders. They need to be able to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of education and meet the needs of their students. Teacher-leaders must be adept in handling different situations, such as taking on new responsibilities and working with different types of people. If that doesn’t come naturally, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Take care of yourself so you can better prepare for anything coming your way. This includes getting enough sleep and taking care of your mental and physical health.
  • Make sure you have enough time in your schedule for meetings, projects and other activities related to your growing responsibilities.
  • Find out what resources are available to aid you in your objectives. For example, what technology exists to enhance your teaching or scheduling?
  • Reach out to mentors for guidance on what to do (and what not to do!) when working as an effective teacher-leader.

Trustworthiness

Trustworthiness is a critical characteristic of all great leaders. After all, if people don’t trust you, they will not follow you anywhere. But how do you gain trust? And what does it look like when a teacher-leader embodies this quality? Here are some tips:

  • Speak honestly. If you say what you mean and mean what you say, students and adults alike will learn to turn to you when they want an honest opinion, even if they don’t always agree.
  • Be ethical. In work as in life, you’ll sometimes find yourself on the precipice of what’s easy but wrong. Stay true to general principles of what’s right and good, and you will lead by example.
  • Treat everyone with respect. Students, colleagues, parents — when you’re courteous and attentive to everyone and really listen to what they say, you create rapport and inspire trustworthiness.

How teacher-leaders lead within and beyond the classroom

Teacher-leaders are the people who set the tone for their classrooms. They’re the ones who inspire their students to work together, and they’re the ones who set expectations for what kind of behavior is expected in the classroom. Teachers also help create an environment where everyone feels comfortable learning. But, if you think teacher-leadership is limited to the classroom, think again.

Teacher-leaders need to be accessible to students and parents alike. It’s also important for them to be honest about their shortcomings rather than try to appear perfect. When leaders can admit their mistakes, others are more likely to see them as level-headed and trustworthy.

Teacher-leaders can also earn trust from peers by demonstrating they’re capable leaders who know how to make good decisions, whether those pertain to the use of resources or instructional methods.

Good teacher-leaders can also inspire rapport by sharing their struggles as learners and teachers. This can lead to other teachers feeling comfortable reciprocating, which helps build an environment where everyone feels safe taking risks and learning together.

Teacher-leaders help to lead change, both in their schools and in their communities. They advocate for their students’ needs and work to ensure students have everything they need to succeed. Teacher-leaders know how to lead by example and motivate through their words and actions.

Earn a degree in education at University of Phoenix

If you’re interested in learning more about teacher leadership, you can enhance your skill set and knowledge through a master’s degree. Here are just a few of the online master’s degrees in education University of Phoenix offers:

Learn more about online education degrees and certificates at University of Phoenix!