There are many skills necessary for teachers to excel in their profession and be able to truly touch the hearts and change the lives of the students they teach. Here are 11 skills to consider:
Harding and Parsons (2011) cite “master teachers” as sharing three characteristics which are:
1) effective communication and relationship building skills with children,
2) realizing the importance of teaching children and not only the curriculum,
3) and having a love for learning which is demonstrated in their teaching.
Additionally, other authors including Hattie (2003) and Darling-Hammond et al. (2010), discuss the importance of:
4) teachers learning how to design and match curriculum with appropriate instructional strategies
5) how to mediate and empower students to have ownership over their learning
6) how to refine their teaching philosophy and understand the importance of formative assessments and how to make research based interventions.
7) the need to understand the impact of ‘relationships, collaborating, and community’ (Hattie, 2003, p.12) on their students’ learning and
8) the need to realize that teaching critical thinking skills should be the ultimate goal of education.
Finally, an important characteristic that is expected of new teachers to survive and thus needs to be identified and fostered in teacher preparation programs is that of “hardiness”, which Maddi et al. (2002, 2006 as cited in Harding and Parsons, 2011) define as the ability to: “withstand difficult, adverse conditions over extended periods of time” (p.54). Maddi et al’s work revealed that hardy teachers have three key characteristics::
9) a high level of commitment
10) a feeling that they can influence their surroundings
11) and the ability to face challenges comfortably (Maddi et al 2006, p.577 as cited in Cohen, 2009).
The responsibility of touching hearts and changing lives is certainly not a light one, which necessitates the ongoing personal and professional development of educators. Investing in this ongoing development is what can enable us to witness the rewards of inspiring young minds to be a catalyst for positive change and peace in our world.
Cohen, R. M. (2009). ‘What it takes to stick it out: Two veteran inner-city teachers after 25 years’. Teachers and teaching, 15(4), pp. 471 – 491.
Darling-Hammond, L., Dieckmann, J., Haertel, E., Lotan, R., Newton, X., Philipose, S., et al. (2010). ‘Studying teacher effectiveness: The challenges of developing valid measures’. In G. Walford, E. Tucker, & M. Viswanathan (Eds.), The sage handbook of measurement, (pp. 87–106). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.
Harding, K. and Parsons, J. (2011) "Improving Teacher Education Programs", Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 36 (11), pp. 51-61.
Hattie, J. (2003). ‘Teachers make a difference: What is the research evidence?’ Paper presented at the Australian Council for Educational Research Annual Conference on Building Teacher Quality, Melbourne. Australian Council for Educational Research Annual Conference in 2003. Available from <http://www.acer.edu.au/documents/RC2003_Hattie_TeachersMakeADifference.pdf> [13 November 2013].
Teachers already fulfill several roles in and outside the classroom including instructor, advisor, mentor, coach, etc. so why burden them with more roles including those of leadership? An argument for teacher leadership can be made when we consider that some teachers actually have the motivation and skills required to take on important leadership roles in the school; they usually work in schools longer than administrators do so they have more awareness of school culture and can bring more consistency to long term projects; and the demands on school administrators are unrealistic for one or two people to meet, therefore necessitating the involvement of teachers in leadership roles.
Furthermore, research has shown training and encouraging teachers to be leaders leads to “increased teacher satisfaction, reduced isolation, and gaining new knowledge” (Barth, 2001, p. 446). Although teachers are expected to perform on the job from the start, not all teachers may acknowledge the importance of or be ready to lead, so there is a need for teachers to be prepared to effectively fulfill the role of a leader.
If we’ve established the case for encouraging teachers to be leaders, one place to start is to look at three prevalent theories of leadership in the literature: distributed, transformational, and servant leadership.
1) Distributed leadership is defined as “break[ing] the traditional hierarchical model of leadership and distributes decision-making, responsibility, and authority among both formal and informal leaders” (Lindahl 2008, p.302) such that several people fulfill different leadership roles, thereby leading to greater outcomes than working in isolation. Essentially, there is an emphasis on “collective responsibility and collaborative working” (Frost and Harris 2003, p.480) such that leadership can become the responsibility of anyone in the organization. When administrators create an environment for distributed leadership, teachers will understand that some schools are changing the traditional hierarchical model of leadership associated with the industrial age, and be ready for the possibility to lead, even at the beginning of their careers (Bond, 2011).
2) Transformational leadership is a concept defined back in 1978 by Burns as: “the potential to shape, alter, and elevate the motives and goals of people with whom they [transformational leaders] come in contact [with]” (As cited in Bond 2011, p.285). Later, Bass (1999, p. 185 as cited in Bond 2011) revealed four elements that are essential for transformational leadership:
i) “Idealized Influence or Charisma” which involves delivering a clear vision that instills pride, trust and respect in followers;
ii) “Inspirational Motivation” which involves leaders acting as role models;
iii) “Individual Consideration” where the leader coaches, mentors and provides feedback to their team and
iv) “Intellectual Stimulation” which involves providing team members with challenging situations that involve deeper level problem solving.
When administrators and teachers demonstrate transformational leadership, they can reap benefits of exercising such style of leadership in their schools and classrooms, which include enhanced learning, creativity and ethical behavior (Pounder 2006).
3) The final prevalent model, “servant leadership” is defined as “invert[ing] traditional models and advocate[ing] for a person to serve first and lead secondly” (Bowman 2005, 257). As such, servant leaders are fully involved with the change they want to see in the world, serving as role models, and enabling others to “discover and use their strengths and talents” (Jennings and Stahl-Wert, 2003, p.13 as cited in Bond 2011).
This theory is quite relevant because it signifies preferring the well-being of others over oneself, which in most cases is demonstrated in teachers’ desire to enter the profession in order to make a difference in students’ lives and in society at large. As such, servant leadership provides a theory explaining this desire to serve that teachers may have (Bond 2011).
Preparing and encouraging teachers to be leaders can be an investment and require a shift in school culture and job expectations; however, the benefits for teachers, students, administrators and the school community are many and certainly worthwhile.
Barth, R. S. (2001). ‘Teacher leader’. Phi Delta Kappan, 82(6), pp. 443–49.
Bond, N. (2011). ‘Preparing Pre-service Teachers to Become Teacher Leaders’. The Educational Forum, 75 (4), pp. 280-297.
Bowman, R. F. 2004. Teachers as leaders. The Clearing House 77(5): 187–89.
Frost, D., and A. Harris. 2003. Teacher leadership: Towards a research agenda. Cambridge, Journal of Education 33(3): 479–98.
Lindahl, R. 2008. Shared leadership: Can it work in schools? The Educational Forum 72(4): 298–307.Available from <http://www.edschools.org/teacher_report.htm>. [15 November 2013].
Raghad Hamdi is the Founder and Director of Ihsan Education. She has completed a B.A., B.Ed, and MSc. in Educational Leadership, is a PhD Candidate in Education and brings over 15 years of experience in education, training and consulting in Canada, the U.S and the Middle East.