Teacher Stealth Leadership Important for Change
If you’re an educator, at any level or grade, sitting back and expecting education change to happen, large or small without you getting involved, you need to stand up starting now. If you think that you can’t do something, or start something, you’re mistaken. And if you spend time wondering or fearing that leadership won’t let you do things that are educationally sound in the direction of education change, you’re wasting your time, your colleagues’ time, and most of all your students’ time. The hardest thing to do is nothing while complaining that you can’t do anything. The easiest thing to do is to do something. Here’s a possible way to get started doing something.
Try a bit of stealth leadership. As a regular classroom teacher it may be the only way you can begin to actively make suggestions, with possible active solutions for change. And, while you may be closest to your own building supervisor, education change ideas traveling through a school leader may not always reach the right person, who can act upon those ideas. You certainly can’t wait to be invited to higher level or even middle level leadership and policy meetings. What you need to do is discover whom those leaders and administrators are, and then introduce yourself, and let them know who you are. If your district uses an inter-school mail system, an initial, well-composed formal introduction letter will work. If you know that e-mail is acceptable for introductions like this, do it that way. If you write five letters to five different people, make sure that you write five unique letters or e-mails. If these people talk, you want them to know that you see them as individuals. When you do, it will be easier for them to see you that way as well.
The letters should include who you are, what you do, and where you do it, as well as possibly a little background about you, even if they already know you. And the kicker should be they should know you have some ideas you’d like to share for helping to positively change the way teachers teach, students learn, as well as improve school culture. Furthermore, share that you’d like to follow up the introduction letter with more letters, e-mail, or whatever the easiest, convenient communication format, with those positive ideas on a regular basis. Check it for everything before you send it—grammar, spelling and if it makes understandable sense. Sometimes you’ll get a direct meeting right away. Whatever you do, make sure to include your immediate supervisor or administrator in the loop. There may be a string of command, and hopscotching that can be interestingly tricky. While no immediate supervisor should stand in your communication way, there may be a control factor, so it pays to loop him or her in. No one can stop you from sharing positive education change ideas beyond your classroom or school walls. Just follow whatever leadership procedures have been set up, no matter how ancient and hierarchically crazy. Good ideas, backed by your own administrative supervisor, can result in feathers in all hats.
At the start, no one needs to know you’re doing this, other than your immediate supervisor or administrator, as mentioned. This is where the stealth part comes in. The object of this is not to give you a soapbox for standing up and shouting out in the faculty lounge that you are sending leadership ideas. What you want to do is open a friendly channel for your ideas, and once it is opened, flood it with the best, well-thought-out ideas and concrete action solutions you can. Own the Guinness World Book of positive education change proposals in your district. You’ll know that all of those proposals won’t have a chance, but what you’re looking for is that a very small percentage do get noticed in the right places. That is success.
When you’re satisfied that someone is reading your ideas, it’s time to come out of stealth mode. You can do this in a few ways. Start small with educators you know, and work with, possibly on your teaching team. Then, ask for a few minutes at a faculty meeting. A good building supervisor/administrator may offer you that chance before you suggest it. The more good ideas generated by his/her staff, the better it will be for your administrator, too. You may start something far bigger than you imagined, moving from individual stealth to collaborative leadership for education change. It can happen, and it can begin with you.
Author’s note: This stealth leadership idea can work in corporations, and in the boardroom, too.