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Creating Psychologically Safe Learning Environments

Strong educational leaders recognize the contribution of policies and programs to school effectiveness, but they always remember the people who drive it all.

Invest Time in Teaching First

You can depend on the useful skills you learned in the classroom while teaching and leading students in your new role as an educational leader. Listening, patience, flexibility, goal-setting, creativity — these qualities and many more will still apply in your day-to-day activities. As a school leader, your sphere of influence and responsibility is larger and now includes all faculty and staff, parents, other administrators and your community.

You will wear the many hats of a curriculum leader, a facilities manager, a budget and finance expert, a human resources specialist, an advocate, a mentor and a peacemaker. To help you make this transition from leading a classroom to leading the school, here are six helpful tips:

  1. Develop Collaborative Relationships

    Phil Jackson, the famed basketball coach, shared this lesson about teamwork in his book Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success:

    “The samurai wanted to teach his sons about the power of teamwork. So he gave each of them an arrow and asked them to break it. No problem. Each son did it easily. Then the samurai gave them a bundle of three arrows bound together and asked them to repeat the process. But none of them could. ‘That’s your lesson,’ the samurai said. ‘If you three stick together, you will never be defeated.'”

    Creating a positive, supportive culture and ensuring that everyone is on board to achieve the same goals requires teamwork. No one individual can have as much impact in an educational environment as a united team.

    Creating goals together helps everyone share the same vision, and they will feel that they have a voice. Your faculty, students, their parents and the community all have ideas and energy that you can tap to make positive change happen in your new leadership position.

  2. Keep Current with Research and Technology

    Change is a constant, especially when talking about research and technology. Every year valuable data from educational research is available that can help guide your tactics, if not your goals. It’s important to take some time to stay current with educational research and the technology being used to support schools. This includes gathering feedback from your own faculty and using that data to effect positive change.

  3. Set Clear Expectations

    In a recent article in ASCD’s online magazine Educational Leadership, Thomas R. Hoerr, teacher, head of school and author, talks about leading adults. He says it’s important to set clear expectations to eliminate confusion or duplication of efforts. Part of that, he says is to also be thoughtful about when to compromise. “Few decisions (important ones, anyway) should be the principal’s alone. Teachers have specialized knowledge, hands-on experiences, and unique insights that should be factored into any solution.”

  4. Positivity Breeds Positivity

    Hoerr goes on to talk about positivity and he mentions the Rule of Five. He says “school leaders should try to give everyone they work with five positive comments for any negative comment, or even for a question that might be interpreted as a negative.” Remembering that the principal is one of the most influential forces in shaping the culture at a school helps drive home how important it is to be positive.

  5. Be Visible

    Teachers are very visible in their schools to students, parents, other faculty and administrators. It’s very difficult for a teacher to hide. Principals and administrators, on the other hand, have offices and gatekeepers who protect them from interruptions. So it’s important to make the extra effort to interact with students, visit classrooms, walk the halls, talk with parents and keep that door open.

  6. Preparing to Make the Jump

    Teachers who want to advance to a leadership/administrative position will need to meet the requirements of their school district and state. To prepare, a master’s degree in educational administration is a good first step. Most states require principals to have a relevant master’s degree, although some will hire principals with any master’s degree, as long as they are certified teachers and certified school administrators.

    Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) offers two fully online master’s degree programs for teachers who want to move into a variety of curricular leadership roles, including principal.

The TAMIU Master of Science in Educational Administration Online Program

This program prepares you to pass the required Texas Education Agency principal exams and gives you the knowledge and credentials you need to prepare for leadership roles. You can complete this 30 credit-hour program in as few as 10 months. Learn more about TAMIU’s Master of Science in Educational Administration online program.

The TAMIU Master of Science in Curriculum & Instruction with a Specialization in Educational Administration Online Program

This 33 credit-hour program emphasizes organizational leadership and the practical application of theory, research, assessment and coaching to improve learning. It is designed to prepare you for a variety of leadership roles and will teach you skills applicable to a broad range of industries. This program can be completed in as few as 12 months. Learn more about TAMIU’s Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction with a Specialization in Educational Administration online program.

Learn more about TAMIU’s online Education programs.


George Courous: 3 Important Areas to Shift the Conversation in Education

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD): Principal Connection / Four Tips on Leading Adults

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