(Originally posted on Habits of Reflective School Leadership.)
By Dan Fowler
Over the past 2 weeks, our school leadership team has been fortunate enough to work alongside our teachers, both at the district level and school-based level, in developing their curriculum through the “Backward Design” process (A process created and perfected by Jay McTighe and the late Grant Wiggins). As a result of this training, I have watched our teachers take ownership in not only the data and supporting standards that will drive the prioritized standards, but also in their daily teaching and how they are going to design unique learning experiences and assessments for students. This “curriculum” will act as the vehicle that drives students towards transfer (The ability to use knowledge appropriately and fruitfully in a new or different context than that in which it was initially learned), the “Holy Grail” of teaching and learning.
By empowering our teachers to lead their colleagues through this process, our instructional teams have become motivated and inspired. The autonomy given to our teachers to sequence and plan for learning across the year with increased student independence, allows for more authentic curricular connections. When student achievement is the focus, and teachers are entrusted with making responsibly innovative decisions in how they teach, a vision becomes shared and it’s easier to build leadership capacity amongst our staff.
As Todd Whitaker states, “There are really two ways to improve a school significantly,” one of those being: “improve the teachers you already have.” Furthermore, by developing teacher leaders, we are building both leadership capacity and professionally developing teachers at the same time.
Below are the Four Steps to Building Leadership Capacity Lyle Kirtman references in the Harvard Education Letter that focuses on enhancing the capacity of school based leadership teams in order to attain goals and successes.
Four Steps to Building Leadership Capacity
- Leaders examine their own leadership style.
As leaders, we must always be reflecting on our own leadership style. Through this reflection, we develop an understanding of our own behaviors, beliefs, and values. This also allows us to assess the culture we are cultivating; making sure it’s an environment that values risk taking and a growth mindset.
- Leaders review the leadership profile of their team.
As we begin to understand our own way in which we prefer to lead, we must also identify and recognize the leadership styles of those around us. By doing this, it allows us to build on the strengths of our staff and identify their specific leadership styles so that we can mobilize resources and provide support.
- Leaders commit to an ongoing process.
Leaders should also engage and commit to a process of continued leadership development within their building and organization. This process encourages and supports other staff members to take on leadership responsibilities, empowers them to seek continuous personal growth, and promotes change as an element of school improvement.
- Leaders maintain a positive culture of change despite barriers.
School administrators must understand the dynamics of change. We must learn to rely on the best staff in our buildings and entrust them to utilize their leadership strengths that will lead to a school culture of equity, where all staff has input centered around school norms and values. Through professional development and support, staff leaders with a variety of strengths and competencies have the ability to drive meaningful change, build a capacity for sustained improvement, and cultivate a culture that makes everyone around them successful.
As a school administrator, it is our leadership responsibility to pave the road for future leaders and put the pieces in place for all staff leaders to be successful. We motivate our staff by knowing, understanding, and recognizing their strengths, as well as inspire them to to follow their passions and become self motivated to lead. I truly believe that everybody has the opportunity to be a leader in some capacity, it’s our job to discover and identify the capacity in our staff, and empower them to lead with passion and purpose.