An Equation for Teacher Leadership
Lawrence J. Flint
American public school teachers have an awesome responsibility to aid students in their pursuit of knowledge. They serve as role models I will argue that teachers must possess the skills and abilities that epitomize excellent leadership and that the finest teachers are both transactional and transformational in nature.
The definition of leadership is not a simple one. Dictionaries attempt to define it as the office or position of a leader, or the capacity to lead (Merriam-Webster, 1986). Although this is one possible, elementary definition the actual meaning of leadership is far more complex.
The function of leadership within any organization has many facets. In a classroom the teacher has many leadership responsibilities but can, and should, endow students with a sense of responsibility as well. The demands placed on educators vary widely with some tasks being purely administrative while others require higher order thinking and inspirational persuasion.
In order to accomplish these goals teachers must possess a host of skills. They must be experts in the subject area they teach, exhibit selfcontrol, have administrative skills, be able to solve a variety of problems, and be able to personally relate to the students (Bean, 2000). Furthermore, teachers play many roles besides being a teacher in their line of work including mentoring, coaching, and facilitating nontraditional learning
The best teachers instill a sense of teamwork and leadership in their students. By doing so, they empower students to work in selfmanaged work teams both in and outside the classroom setting. Cooperative learning projects, such as laboratory experiments, group projects, and drill and practice exercises are beneficial for many reasons. Cooperative learning improves comprehension of basic academic content, reinforces social skills, allows for student decision making, creates an active learning environment, boosts students' self-esteem, celebrates diverse learning styles, promotes student responsibility, and focuses on success for everyone (Houghton, 2000). The valuable skills that students learn by working in groups are very important for continued success in their academic work as well as the workplace. Furthermore, when the class itself becomes a team, there is a greater sense of cohesion, alignment, and focus.
Teachers must be visionary while they serve as a role model for students. Every teachers must have a clearly established set of goals they wish for their students to meet as well as a strategy to get them there. Visionary teachers provide a historical perspective, energize students, give clarity and meaning to work, establish a standard of excellence, facilitate imagination, unite all members of the classroom, and clearly define the destination and steps along the way (Daft, 1999). It is through this shared vision and commitment that teachers and students work together to achieve academic goals.
Teachers must be both transactional and transformational in their approach to teaching (Bass, 1990). The transactional approach to teaching focuses on rewards based on performance. These rewards are usually reflected as grades; an outcome that all students are concerned with. It is very important for teachers to provide a clear framework of expectations for students as well. Without these qualities of a good transactional leaders, students may feel that they are not provided with enough structure and discipline. Teachers who are purely transactional in their teaching may be successful but certainly do not possess those skills necessary for excellent education.
Transformational leadership in the classroom is an important feature. Not only does the transformational teacher provide structure and a clear grading scheme, they also are charismatic, provide motivation, intellectual stimulation, and are considerate of all students (Bass, 1996). These four facets of this leadership style are apparent in excellent classroom leaders. The charismatic teacher presents the important values of the community, emphasizes commitment to obtaining goals, and emphasizes trust.
In terms of motivational ability, the excellent teacher is visionary, challenges all students to do their best, and provides an appropriate level of optimism and encouragement. To stimulate students, they question old assumptions and student misconceptions, stimulate new ways of thinking, and openly encourage the expression of ideas. Finally, they deal with students as individuals while considering their needs, aspirations and abilities.
The teacher is much more than just a purveyor of knowledge. All teachers must possess a wide range of skills and abilities not found in a typical person. The development of these traits is a lifelong process that some very fine teachers master.
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Bass, B.M. (1996). Does the transactionaltransformational leadership paradigm transcend organizational and national boundaries? American Psychologist, 52 (2), 130-139.
Bean, J. (2000). Foundations of Educational Leadership for Teachers. Lock Haven, PA: Lock Haven University Press.
Daft, R.L. (1999). Leadership: Theory and practice. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace & Company.
Houghton Mifflin's Teacher Education Station. (1998). Cooperative Learning: Background Knowledge. http://college.hmco.com/education/station/concept/coop/coopback.html (2 Aug. 2000).
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