Sharing the Lead: Classroom Teachers as Leaders

Sharing the Lead:
Creating a Climate of
Michele Atkins, Ph.D.
Kenneth Newman, Ed.D.
Ann Singleton, Ed.D.
Union University
The Academic Leader…
Has no agenda except to facilitate.
Is enthusiastic about all students and teachers.
Has an open-minded management style.
Is transparent in decision making.
Represents the school well to higher
administration and to colleagues.
• Provides constructive feedback.
• Is politically astute.
PKAL Summer Institute Newsletter (2002, June).
Characteristics of the Ideal Academic Department
The Myth of Effective
• There is a myth that an organization
can find salvation through efficient
• Thus, the model of leadership is one
of omnicompetence: the skilled
classroom practitioner plus
curriculum leader, plus technical
expert, plus all the manifestations
associated with being the figurehead.
• It is no wonder that so many leaders
in education seek early retirement or
suffer a range of work-related
Being a successful school leader is not about
controlling your faculty. Most schools are
essentially archaic, resembling bureaucracies
that lack flexibility and adaptability (WestBurnham, 1997).
But the world is complex and chaotic and we
must adapt. Likewise, the children and adults
that enter our schools are complex and we must
learn to be flexible and adapt to their needs.
Effective Academic Leaders
• Committed and enthusiastic
• Competent
• Possess self-knowledge
• Authentic
These characteristics become
interrelated. When we are not
empathic leaders, others around us
stop being authentic, stop bringing
talent and energy into the
workplace, and stop using feelings
to support personal work-related
goals (Cooper & Sawaf, 1997).
• Empathetic – communicate care
Leadership Reconsidered, 2000
The Empathic Academic Leader acknowledges
the teacher’s/staff ’s competence and value,
thereby creating an atmosphere of reciprocal
giving. When adults feel they give more to a
relationship than they get in return, they feel
distress and typically either reduce inputs (don’t
do lesson plans, come in late, miss meetings,
careless work), increase complaints (whiny
behaviors), or end the relationship (quit trying).
The Power of Influence
• If you want to have power in your
school/district, then earn influence rather than
demand control.
• Influence is only obtained through mutual
• Mutual respect must be initiated by the leader.
• Mutual respect is gained through the display of
empathy for others.
Do As I Do
Research indicates that when leaders
model desired empathic behaviors,
others are more likely to adopt these
behaviors themselves than when they
are merely told to
behave in a certain manner.
Why is Empathy Important for
Characteristic of the successful learner (Jones, 1990)
Foundation of social intelligence (Mead, 1934)
Significantly related to self-esteem (Davis, 1983)
Related to prosocial behavior (Hoffner & Haefner,
• Related to cognitive development and moral
development (Atkins, 2000)
• Related to grade point averages (Bonner & Aspy, 1984)
• Related to critical thinking skills and creative thinking
(Gallo, 1989)
The Payoff of Empathic Leadership
• “…When children feel safe, cared about, and
relaxed they will learn more, not less. Our
children are able to grapple with higher-order
thinking questions because they don’t face the
petty disturbances that arise in mainstream
schools. We resolve conflicts as they come up,
thereby reducing the children’s distractions.”
The Profile of an Empathic
Academic Leader:
• Open, warm, relaxed, good-humored, ensures
fairness, models and expects common courtesy,
explains how faculty/staff should work or
behave in an understanding way rather than
The Profile of an Empathic
Academic Leader:
Facial Expression
• Frequent smiles, lots of eye-contact, generally
positive demeanor, expressive face which shows
emotions and can switch emotions quite quickly,
can influence others’ emotions as well
The Profile of an Empathic
Academic Leader:
• Positive, encouraging, expressive, clear directions
and explains the meaning of directives when
The Profile of an Empathic
Academic Leader:
Body Language
• Uses gesture, animated, tactile, moves around,
uses body for emphasis and explanation
The Profile of an Empathic
Academic Leader:
• Generally gets closer to those he/she is speaking
to, less distance, less formality and provides oneto-one support when possible even in a large
setting, moves around quite a lot, sits down with
the community members, lowers whole body
down below student’s level
The Profile of an Empathic
Academic Leader:
• Knows and uses names frequently, listens
carefully to others, gives them sole
concentration when possible, elicits
understanding from them, echoes and affirms
their comments, tries to give a positive response
but asks them to elaborate or develop response
if weak, prompts and helps them when
The Profile of an Empathic
Academic Leader:
Content of Interactions
• Conveys relevance of topic, uses personal
interest, reflection, and humor in meetings; the
personal used as a vehicle into topics
The Profile of an Empathic
Academic Leader:
• In touch with community member’s interests, form
personal relationships with each member, considers
the informal significant, very aware of individual
social and emotional aspects, puts time and effort
into relationships, concerned with out-of-school life
of members, maintains a long-term view of the
member’ s well-being, good listener
Trust begins with a personal commitment to respect
others, to take everyone seriously. Respect demands
that we first recognize each other’s gifts and
strengths and interests. Only then can we reach our
common and individual potentials.
Max De Pree
for a Day
A Key to Developing
“Reflection is the beginning of reform.
There can be no reform without reflection.
If you don’t reflect when you commit a
crime, then that crime is of no use. It
might just as well have been committed by
someone else.”
Mark Twain
“The Watermelon Speech”
“Reflection is so critical; there can be no higher
growth for individuals or for society without it.
Reflection is the very process of human
evolution itself.”
David Sawyer
Berea College
Berea, KY
The term reflection is derived from the Latin
term reflectere—meaning “to bend back.”
Webster defines reflect as “to think
seriously; contemplate; ponder.”
Dewey (1933) is acknowledged as the
key originator in the 20th century of
the concept of reflection. He
considered it to be a special form of
problem solving, thinking to resolve
an issue which involved active
chaining, a careful ordering of ideas
linking each with its predecessors.
Many people, both students and teachers, think
of reflection only in terms of “touchy-feely”
group discussions. However, reflection need not
be limited to the release of emotional energy,
the sharing of feelings, or attempts to “feel
Rather, reflection is decidedly educational. It is
an opportunity through which one can learn
from experience. Reflection can take numerous
forms and can touch on an endless variety of
It furthers learning and inspires provocative
thought and action. Most of all, it can benefit
both the individual and the larger community.
Simply put, reflection involves getting
people talking/thinking about their
Donald Schon (1983) in Reflective Practitioner:
How Professionals Think in Action calls for
professionals to better understand their actions
by thinking about their actions. He says we
must get into the habit of thinking about our
The Tennessee Evaluation Model does just what
Schon (1983) suggests with such items as:
• As you reflect on the lesson, what are your initial
impressions? What did you see your students
doing or hear them saying that support your
• In your reflection, how did the lesson actually
unfold as compared to what you had anticipated
happening as you did your planning?
• As you reflect back over this
lesson/reflection and previous
lessons/reflections, what ideas or
insights are you discovering about
your teaching?
Some Forms of Reflection…
Reflective Essays
E-mail Discussion Groups
Book Clubs/Discussions
Costa and Kallick (2000) maintain that “Building
in frequent opportunities for faculty and
students to reflect on their teaching and learning
enriches education for all.”
How often is this done in our schools?
They further state…
“In teaching as in life,
maximizing meaning from experiences
requires reflection.”
And, finally…
“Despite a reflective faculty’s best intentions
to focus on the past,
the tradition in education is to simply discard
what has happened and move on to new topics.”
It is up to us to break out of the “box.”
What are faculty meetings like the majority
of the time in your school?
What do you think would happen in
a school if faculty meetings became
a time of reflection instead of a time
for announcements and gripe
Let’s reflect…
• What are your “real goals of education”?
• How would you define the differences
between “learning” and “knowledge”?
How should we be preparing kids for the real
world? What is the real world, anyway? Can
you identify some real-world skills or
knowledge that every child should learn or
If our society committed itself to the idea that
we care about kids more than we care about
schools, what would need to change?
If you agree that the ability to believe in
yourself and to love learning are important
skills schools should teach, how would you go
about teaching them?
What is your definition or vision of a great
school? How would you go about measuring
each of the qualities you choose?
Do you and your colleagues share the same
philosophy or vision about your school or
workplace? Why or why not? How does this
influence the way you work together and think
about your work?
What would a school that was “a little more
human” look like to you?
•Reflections taken from:
Littky, D. (2004). The big picture: Education is
everyone’s business. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Every man must decide whether he
will walk in the light of creative
altruism or in the darkness of
destructive selfishness. Life’s most
persistent and urgent question is,
What are you doing for others?
Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Never doubt that a small group of
thoughtful, committed citizens
can change the world:
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead
At the last great
meeting of the species,
the dinosaurs voted
not to change.
Sharing the Lead:
Creating a Climate of
Union University
Michele Atkins, Ph.D.
Kenneth Newman, Ed.D.
Ann Singleton, Ed.D.

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