How to Have an Impact Beyond Your Classroom
You’re doing great work in your classroom, and that can often be enough. But expanding your reach can give you an opportunity to have a greater impact, both on your classroom and your career.
Here are some ideas on how to become a school or educational leader, based on the work of Lesley alum Sarah Reeves Young ’05, current Digital Teaching and Learning Coordinator for the Utah State Office of Education.
- Take pride in your classroom. Become a confident teacher by doing self-assessments on your lessons, finding good teachers at your school, and asking for help when you need it. This allows you to hone your skills and, therefore, your confidence.
- Become a coach, or perform community service. Coaching (both sports and academics) and community services allows you to get to know students, other teacher and coaches, and community members.
- Volunteer for committees. Let your lead teacher, principal, or department chairs know you are interested in helping. Getting to know how a school operates can be valuable knowledge.
- Professional development. In your professional life, model the learning and risks that you ask of your students. Don’t let your development stop with required events—search for events and opportunities that interest you.
Some good sources of PD are teacher association groups (e.g., National Council of Teacher of Mathematics, National Council of Teachers of English, or National Science Teachers Association); listservs for specific content areas (e.g., American Institute of Physics, Folger Shakespeare Library); libraries, zoos, and art institutes; and research institutions. Sign up for their Facebook or other social media sites, so you get news of new opportunities.
- Communicate what you've learned. When you've completed professional development activities, educate others in your school. Make a short presentation at a faculty meeting or professional development day. See if you can present at the district or state level.
If you’re nervous as a first-time presenter, present with someone else, use handouts, and ask those in the audience to share their ideas and feedback. You'll become more comfortable as you do more.
- Share with a wider audience. Write for national journals and trade magazines; publish curriculum on a personal website or on social media; offer your classroom for observation by new student teachers; connect with your state’s curriculum development office.
- Apply for opportunities. Put yourself out there for experiences, even those you might think are beyond your reach: scholarships and grants, conferences, awards, employment.
What Kinds of Leadership Positions Exist for Teachers?
Young suggests exploring some of the following:
- Within your or another school system: Positions such as department chair, curriculum chair, lead or mentor teacher, academic coach, dean of students, or principal
- At the district or state level: Positions within your district's or state’s department of education
- In higher education: Methods professor
- For the information education and industry: Educational policy input and educational programming
Sit down and make a professional development plan with goals for your classroom, your own learning and professional development, and ways to move into leadership positions. Create a professional learning network with colleagues and other people in your profession, both in person and through online sites such as LinkedIn. Get business cards made. Create opportunities!