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Seven Reasons Why Educators Should Be Trained to Lead

After spending an in-service training day with teachers and administrators, I left feeling their pain. In my view, most educators are caring individuals who want the best for their students. One male teacher, however, approached me after my session with a despondent look on his face. I soon realized why.

“I think I just need to resign my position,” he said.

“You’re kidding. Why?” I responded, a bit surprised.

“My hands are tied in the classroom. I can’t do what I know the kids really need. What’s more, I’m forced to spend most of my energy fighting budget battles and lobbying for less curriculum to be crammed into my day. Further, when one of my students asked how my class had any relevance to his life, I was forced to admit I had no good answer.”

“Hmmm. It must be tough for a teacher when you can’t even explain why your subject is important to their future,” I empathized.

“You got that right. I actually think it will be easier if I just find a career where I think I can actually make a difference in a child’s life.”

What’s most disturbing to me is that this male instructor was one of the good guys. His colleagues say he is a caring, intelligent, magnetic teacher for his students. But, alas, he’s likely leaving the profession. It’s hard to imagine he wants to get out of education so he can make an impact on kids.

I am not pretending I have a magic wand or a silver bullet for this dilemma. I do, however, have an idea that could help teachers immeasurably. It could be a game changer. The idea is to equip teachers to be effective leaders.

Educators Should Be Trained to Lead

Seven Reasons Why We Must Train Educators to be Leaders

1. As student conduct continues to decline, schools need great leaders in class.

I’ve lost count of the number of teacher’s who’ve said to me that teaching just isn’t fun anymore. They say this because kids often don’t have a sense of respect or boundaries any more. Three in four high school students believe a school shooting could happen at their school and bullying is the number one problem on campus. Teachers are called upon to police, to counsel, to direct, to mentor and to discipline.

2. Standards and requirements demand more must be accomplished in class.

Because schools feel pressure to get test scores up and compete not only with other states but other nations, teachers must juggle their ability to both instruct and motivate. So much rides on the results of standardized tests, from budgets to where students attend college. The pressure to excel requires us to be leaders. Some kids don’t connect the dots between learning and life. Leaders connect those dots.

3. Class sizes continue to get larger, requiring better management of students.

Across the U.S., class sizes are increasing at unprecedented rates. An estimated 58,000 teachers were laid off last fall at the same time as enrollment was increasing in much of the country. Consequently, leading a class is all the more challenging. Any time the student / teacher ratio widens, the educator must exercise increasing leadership skills. The larger the crowd, the better the point person must be.

4. Teachers are the “farm system” for future administrators.

You know this, but almost every school administrator—principals, assistant principals, deans and directors were at one time a teacher in a classroom. The class-room is an incubator for emerging educational leaders. The problem is, a problem-identifier isn’t always a natural problem solver. Teachers must embrace their influence in class, but see it as a laboratory for their own leadership growth.

5. Budget cuts require teachers to be more resourceful than ever.

Budget cuts have been enacted in at least 46 states, with some schools shortening the school year and forcing teachers to take furlough. When money goes down, the demand for recipients to be more resourceful goes up. I believe teachers who find a way to continue to display creative pedagogy with fewer dollars deserve to be called leaders. Anyone can do something great with a million dollars. My hat’s off to those who do a lot with a little.

6. We must insure our good teachers stay and grow.

I believe healthy things naturally grow. One of the greatest reasons for teachers to embrace a vision to be a leader is the need for growth and health. The number one occupational hazard of teachers is “The Starving Baker.” It’s the baker who bakes bread for others, but forgets to eat any “bread” himself. Sadly, when teachers stop growing, so do the students. But when educators catch a vision for leadership, they naturally hunger to be lifelong learners.

7. Kids need role-models in the classroom to enable them to be career ready.

This is perhaps the top reason for teacher-leaders. Kids desperately need role-models to follow today. They need adults who not only go the way, but show the way. Why? Because people do what people see. Students do what students see. They remember twice as much through what the see as what they hear. A lecture is not enough. What kids need is an example to follow.

If you’re a teacher, you probably became one because you love kids or you love the subject you teach. May I suggest you cultivate a love for leading as well? Our schools need people of influence—people who embrace their influence—leading the next generation. It is the need of the hour. We teach what we know, but we reproduce what we are.

 Do you agree? How do you think leadership training would help teachers? Leave a comment.


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  1. Michael Brosowski on March 1, 2013 at 7:09 am

    The teacher’s comment really resonates with me: having to leave teaching in order to really meet students’ needs. I left teaching after just a few years, and ended up living in Vietnam. As things went, I ended up starting a charity here for street kids which has now been running for 10 years, and I really feel now that I can do ‘what needs to be done’. It’s a pity that I couldn’t feel the same about teaching, and I whole heartedly agree that something needs to be done to address this.

  2. charlene.fonseca on March 1, 2013 at 8:15 am

    Bluntly, I’m not sure that our public education system can handle true leadership. I see leadership taking place in other venues where kids are. I’m a teacher, but the closest I get to the public classroom is aide or substitute teacher. Having said that, I know that there are good teachers who pay the price every day and get into the hub regardless. Hey, I’m wiling to hear, though. How should educators be trained to lead in the public system?

    • Brooks on March 1, 2013 at 9:15 am

      Totally agree charlene! I am a teacher and coach in Bham AL. And just like this story I have decided to go a different route because my impact has continued to become ever more crowded with politics and discipline problems. Many teacher and coaches that I talk to have the same issues. I think you are absolutely correct. The education system as a whole needs a overhaul. We are failing in education. Not because we don’t care but because the directives and objectives have changed so much that teachers can’t do what they were made to do- make a difference! Not teach, but make a difference in the lives of young leaders. It’s sad.

  3. BRS on March 1, 2013 at 11:49 am

    I am stricken with disappointment. On the one hand to say Education is failing is to say we, teachers, are failing. Perhaps we are. On the other hand, to say that others drive what happens in the classroom is to say we are only as good as the decisions being made by individuals who probably have limited time in the classroom. Our culture speaks about Education as if it were a separate piece to society. Some believe education is a mirror image of society. Is it safe to say if Education is failing so too are many other factors? Parental involvement? Stakeholder interest? The economy? And the list continues to spiral…. I teach in the public school system and I firmly believe what happens in many schools is the only thing right for many of our students. Safety, support, food, procedures, accountability, and hope are but a few of the things that I witness in our system. What happens when our students leave school? Now that’s a question that leaves me heartbroken.

    Furthermore, despite what most NON-educators believe, teacher-leaders deserve appropriate compensation for their work. Enough with the nonsense that they get their summers off. Many of my colleagues have to work during the summer so they can afford to teach. So the question, and I believe its a valid question, is what are we willing to do to keep these teacher-leaders? I can’t think of a better way to compliment education than to support those leading our kids. Including my own. Is there really a better place to invest our money than in the welfare and future of our kids?

    In conclusion, while I am unable to see the results, raise your hand if you were lead and influenced by a teacher. Perhaps even saved by one (thank you Mr. Smith). Now raise your hand if you have recently gave thanks to those who probably developed and molded you. Actually contacted them. All with an hourly wage that is nowhere near market or business value for the gifts we have in our teachers. If you tell a student he is failing enough, I am certain he/she will begin to believe it. My guess is the same can be true for teachers.

  4. HAB on March 2, 2013 at 9:57 am

    In 2001, I left the teaching profession to stay home to be with our firstborn and then stayed home until my second entered kindergarten. All of those years home, I missed teaching, but figured I would not end up going back just because I did not think I could make it happen. I am now 4 years back in the classroom. It just happened to work out that I started back part time in our home school. It was a win-win seeing that I would be at my boy’s school and I was getting back to what I love; teaching!
    However, the last 4 years of being bounced around (RIF’d), budget cuts, looming changes in teacher evaluation, common core and having to do the near impossible with more kids and less time, really tends to suck the passion from your body. I love teaching and in my position I have a bit more autonomy then my colleagues, but I don’t love all of the restrictions, the musts, red tape and the dire feelings of doom and gloom of my profession.
    Education needs an overhaul, by educators, not by legislators. How can non-education background people decide what is best? How can we implement ideas like your 7 reasons for training teachers to be leaders?
    As a teacher in the classroom, it feels like no one is listening. I hear and read other educator’s, parent’s, lawmaker’s, comments and opinions. Everyone has something to say. There are many good ideas on how to improve the state of education, but with everyone talking at each other, when is there time to listen? Empathetically listen.

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Seven Reasons Why Educators Should Be Trained to Lead