In 2011, I wrote about the idea of moving from “classroom management” to “classroom leadership.” Here is a snippet from that post:
For as long as I have been in education, the term “classroom management” is something that has been in every evaluation form I have seen as well as a major topic of discussion. In every element of leadership, there is some element of management but to paraphrase Stephen Covey, “you manage things, but we lead people.” I don’t know any person that likes to feel that they are “managed”, but I do know lots of people who want to be inspired and engaged in the work that they do. Leadership brings that out, not management.
Maybe the term “classroom leadership” needs to be more dominant in our conversations about teaching and learning. The reality is that if people are inspired, they won’t have to be managed at all, they will usually just do great things.
A few things about this idea of moving from “classroom management” to “classroom leadership”:
- There are so many complexities of a classroom, and I understand the thoughts behind the idea of “classroom management,” but this is more about changing perspectives first on how we see our students and how we unleash their potential. The strategies that have been used in line with “classroom management” are not all obsolete, but how often do we do something focused on short-term wins that lead to a long-term loss? Do things like “rewards” for behavior lead to compliance now and complacency later? What about things like “sticker charts” and their long-term effect on our students? This is not about throwing out the “teacher playbook,” but thinking differently about students and schools, and how if we want them to be the leaders of tomorrow, we need to empower them to lead in our world today.
- When I use the term “leadership,” I default to the Covey definition:
I believe that this philosophy of leadership is not only beneficial for the teacher in the classroom but inspiring the students to do themselves. This is not about developing the “one leader,” but about inspiring this same principle in our students.
- Empowered educators that have the opportunity to lead in their school communities are more likely to create the same opportunities for their students. Administrators cannot expect one thing from their teachers regarding leadership in classrooms, but do something different in their practice. Distributive leadership has to be modeled at all levels.
- Moving from “classroom management” to “classroom leadership” is not meant to be a simple shift from point ‘A’ to ‘B.’ The conversations will be messy, and there are no absolutes. Again, this is about a change of perspective first. Practice doesn’t change (or improve) if thinking stays the same.
I have seen the shift from “management” to “leadership” in classrooms, without necessarily a change in terminology. Teachers all over the world are focusing on shifting from engagement to empowerment and giving ownership to their students in their classroom. Or starting from a strengths-based approach, and focusing on what their students do well first, as opposed to where they struggle. These are a couple of the principles that are essential for this shift, but I believe that moving from classroom “management” to “leadership” is a whole paradigm shift that is necessary if we want to continue to move schools forward. Again, Covey discusses the importance of shifting paradigms.
“It becomes obvious that if we want to make relatively minor changes in our lives, we can perhaps appropriately focus on our attitudes and behaviors. But if we want to make significant, quantum change, we need to work on our basic paradigms.” Stephen Covey
Our perspective should not be limited to what our students can do now, but what opportunities they can create for themselves in the future. The legacy of a teacher is not in what they do, but what their students do because of them.