Effective Leaders Challenge Teachers to Continually Grow

keller80By Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

John Adsit (Collaborative Leadership Is Essential for Change) has hit on the primary issue with individual teachers. They say, “What I am doing now is working.”  They say that even when it’s demonstrably untrue. It’s a simple litmus test for bad teachers for the simple reason that there’s always a student who could use something different. You never reach perfection in education just as you never have a final theory in science.

Several people have alluded to the necessity for good leadership, leadership that will challenge the teachers who believe that they have reached the final plateau and that everything is working. What happens to businesses with that attitude?  Good leaders must lead and must lead with a vision of what’s coming in the future. They cannot rest on laurels or stick with good enough. Then, they must transmit that vision to their people and find ways to motivate them to improve continually.

Consider that even if a teacher has created the perfect course today, that course will not be perfect tomorrow. Yesterday’s students listened to transistor radios and watched maybe an hour of television a day on 9-inch black-and-white sets. Today, they text constantly and watch hours of incredibly diverse television programming each day. Yesterday, they mailed hand-written letters and waited days for replies. Phone calls outside of the local area were expensive. Today, they have instant communications and can call Europe from the U.S. for free.

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No matter how resistant to change teachers may seem to be, it’s there in the classroom that change must take place.

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When your target audience changes, your strategies for creating learning must also change. The perfect becomes imperfect, although the perfect never really was perfect.

Leaders face the problem of predicting the future. Which of many options for improving education do you embrace?  What should you change and what should you retain?  Generally speaking, you must distinguish between strategy and tactics. Find learning strategies that have stood the test of time, that have been working well for a long time. Two examples are discovery and creation. Most people, and especially younger people, love to make new things and to discover new ideas.

Another strategy is paying personal attention to students. Make them believe that you care. Also, challenge students so that they aren’t bored. However, don’t worry about entertaining them. That’s not a teacher’s job. You’ll have to be more specific regarding the particular material that you’re charged with teaching of course.

Changing tactics means finding different ways to involve students in learning. How do you use skills that they have developed and that didn’t exist a few decades ago, skills you may not have? Which old-fashioned ideas still resonate?

No matter how resistant to change teachers may seem to be, it’s there in the classroom that change must take place. If students are bored, the teachers are too. They’d love to have the opportunity to make their jobs more fun and rewarding. Leaders must show them the way so that they become the solution and no longer are seen as the problem. Don’t expect teachers to do this on their own just because a few have. They face many uncertainties and long hours to build change and often are unrewarded and even criticized for it.

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