Monday, November 25, 2019

9 Statements to End the “Just a Teacher” Mindset

All great leaders are teaching, and all great teachers are leading.  
Rick DuFour

Whenever I talk with an educator I’ve just met, I always ask this question, "What do you do?", and invariably I get the usually responses.  "I'm a principal."  "I'm a teacher", or "I'm a director".  You get the point; they answer with the name of their position.

But that's doesn't answer my question.  

Your title doesn't tell me what you do.  It tells me the role you play.  The point for asking this question is to see how teachers view the potential in their role. Whenever I hear someone say "I'm just a teacher", or respond like their role isn't very important, I whence just a bit. The "Just a Teacher" response tells me that something or someone in the teacher's culture or in that person's experience has obscured the person's vision for optimizing the value of their role as something bigger than merely being responsible for teaching kids.

Let's be real for just a minute.  Teachers are much more than "Just a Teacher".  In fact the reason that education is becoming more successful every year is because teachers AREN'T just teachers.  They are changing the landscape of education one day at a time and one student at a time, and as leaders we owe it to teachers to combat the mindset of minuteness by convincing teachers that they have a much greater impact and play a vastly bigger role than they could possibly imagine.  

Ending the Just a Teacher Mentality
Here are a few phrases that leaders could use with teachers through daily interactions that could compel them to give up the mentality of "Just a Teacher".
  • You have expertise that I don't have.
  • You possess knowledge that others need.
  • You see things in kids that we can't possibly see.
  • You influence your peers in ways that I can't. 
  • You have the potential to lead in ways that others can't.
  • You add tremendous value to our organization.
  • We need you to NOT be just a teacher
  • We need your help in leading our school.
  • You ARE a vital piece of the puzzle.
What if every leader took a few minutes every day to have these kinds of conversations with one or two teachers per day?  What kind of school could we create?  What kind of potential would we discover?  What level of talent would we unleash?  What kind of leadership capacity would we build?  Can you see what would happen. 

The ability to lead our schools to the top begins with unleashing the leadership potential in every teacher. Every teacher has a superpower, and the best leaders remove the mindset of “Just a Teacher” by building the confidence and competence in every teacher.   And when this mindset is transformed, it permeates throughout the entire school by fostering a mindset of continuous growth that is fueled and nurtured through both shared leadership and perpetual learning.