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Are the Teachers Only Teachers or Leaders Also?

MASUM BILLAH

Do the teachers should teach only the subjects or they should play the role of leaders also? To ensure a successful teaching-learning situation a teacher must be a leader along with successfully conducting classes. It was the traditional idea that a teacher becomes leader or administrator only when he/she is promoted to the position of a departmental head or institutional head. Traditional leadership opportunities for teachers are extremely limited and generally serve an efficiency function rather than a leadership function (Wasley 1991 p4). Current leadership roles are involving teachers as mentors, team leaders, curriculum developers, and staff development. I can remember my first year of teaching when I had to conduct classes of eleven and twelve grade students of about two hundred in one class which proved unmanageable for me sometimes.  I then just blamed the principal and uttered with my colleagues these words, ‘to maintain the discipline in the class was the responsibility of the principal, not mine. Now I remember why I thought so? I didn’t have any training or I held the traditional idea that the leadership and teaching were different ideas. But the role of a teacher has changed dramatically in the past three decades, and individual teacher can no longer simply ‘close the door and teach.” When a teacher plays the role of  leaders can lead the way to a better future by stepping up to accept  responsibility for the learning  of each and every student, to act as models for their colleagues and to guide and support them in the continuous improvement of classrooms and schools. It is a new role requiring courage and commitment   and it is imperative that these roles are filled in every school. If all the responsibility is left to administrators then the situation of an educational institution hardly improves.  

When teachers are leaders they work to influence and support colleagues to improve teaching practices in their classrooms, serving as models for professional group learning and continuous individual improvement. All teacher leaders must also help create demand for changes in school, department and grade level policies that increase student success, even those that are at the expense of teacher-preferences, comfort and convenience. ‘It is not my job to make sure all the kids in my class are successful’-this comment is made by the teacher who is not successful nor is successful as a teacher-leader. Sometimes it is misunderstood that there are some influential teachers in the school/college   but they are not good teachers. These teachers hold the quality of the negative kind of teachers, not good and effective leaders.  

An effective teacher must have an extensive knowledge of curriculum, effective instructional practices, and student assessment. He/she stays on top of current research, and continuously provides intellectual stimulation for the team by sharing it with them, and or supporting the team in seeking out answers to tough questions about practices and polices when students’ learning is not improving. He possesses strong ideals and beliefs about teaching and learning and is not afraid to stand up for them with cynical colleagues. It usually happens when a teacher wants to do something extra and for the benefit of the students in a different way, he/she  becomes the subject of criticism of his/she  surrounding colleagues but the teacher who possesses the qualities of a leader does not get afraid of them. Rather he does his duties actively without fearing anybody.  

Vision is a force that provides meaning and purpose to the work of an organization. So, a teacher leader must have a clear vision. Leaders of change are visionary leaders, and vision is the basis of their work. To actively change organization leaders must make decisions about the nature of the desired state. They begin with a personal vision to forge a shared vision wither coworkers. Their communication of the vision is such that it empowers people to act.

There lies a common belief that a teacher becomes leader only when he/she enjoys power. Actually, power and title cannot make a teacher a real leader. Enjoying power as supervisor, or boss does not automatically place a teacher on a pedestal as a leader. An effective teacher attains these things by virtue of his leadership quality. Leaders motivate their followers to set high, attainable standards that result in successful product outcomes. So, teachers must have leadership qualities to set an educational institution higher than the usual level of standard.

There are five important characteristics of leadership in education such as: (a) Understanding self, (b) Understanding Human nature (c) Communication (d) Clear, focused judgment and (e) Believe in people. Each and every day we are developing, maintaining and enriching relationships with people. Building relationship with peers, parents, students, teachers, maintenance staff, clerical staff and administrators are a part of everyday business for educators. Effective leaders have an honest understanding of who they are and what they represent. Knowing strengths and weaknesses of self helps leaders’ model methods in which they utilize their strengths and continually work to build their weaknesses. Good leaders share their strengths with their followers and they seek input and support from their followers by acknowledging their weaknesses. Good leaders seek responsibility and take responsibility.

Effective leaders must have a fundamental understanding of human nature. Education leaders must understand the needs, emotions, motivations, strengths and weaknesses of their followers, namely their entire building staff. Understanding human nature is not an easy task. Every teacher, like every student has a variety of needs depending upon the day and kaleidoscope of emotions. It is a misguided practice to ignore needs and emotions.

The receiver of the communication must clearly understand the exact information the sender is transmitting. Communication involves both verbal and non-verbal transmissions. Leaders communicating effectively get the same message to all other followers. When communicating effectively, leaders make consistent eye-contact and maintain a body posture that appears to be open to the message from the followers. Messages can become convoluted when the send is giving different messages regarding the same topic to a verity of receivers. This only breeds discontent and distrust. As teachers, we all need to be trained as team and communicated with as a team, were working together to create opportunities for our students to be successful. Leaders are those that truly understand themselves and understand the various elements of human nature. When teachers deal with the sophisticated phenomena and shoulder the responsibilities to bloom the latent talents of the future leaders of nation, they must try to build up leadership quality in them.

Writer: Program Manager: BRAC Education Program, PACE, BRAC, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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