The Importance of School Leadership
January 21, 2018
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Kenneth Chadwell

It has always been my belief that nothing can have a larger impact on a student’s learning than a teacher. It seems that sometimes we forget about the impact of school leadership on the teacher. During most of my seventeen-year teaching career, I was under the belief that a good teacher can overcome a bad school administrator. That is no longer my belief. I think that the choice of who will lead a school has become the number one factor of how successful a school will be.

School principals now have to take on so many roles. No longer do they simply place teachers and deal with discipline, but they must also be ready to be a coach, mentor, advocate, team builder, and fair evaluator. They must be able to build relationships in order for teachers to want to follow them. This relationship building is a key component that may not have mattered as much years ago, but is a necessary trait today. Leaders need to be able to know how to talk to teachers and they must be able to demonstrate a student-centered mindset.

A teacher I am acquainted with works for an administrator who continually downplays the value of evaluation scores. She recently had an evaluation that she was unhappy with, and when she took her concerns to him, she was told that it is just a number and should not matter to her. What this administrator fails to understand is how important teaching is to some of us. While it is true that the evaluations are subjective and open to interpretation by the evaluator, most teachers want to be recognized on a numerical scale which reflects the amount of time and effort they put into their lessons.

So, the question now is how do we get these new types of leaders? We have spent lots of time discussing how to get the most effective teachers in front of our students, but how do we get the most effective leadership in charge of our schools? The short answer is, I don’t know. One way would be to make sure that every person put into a leadership role is there based on their merit and merit alone. No other issue needs to come into play. We often see people promoted based on nothing more than who they are or what political connections they have. People are promoted into school leadership roles after serving very few years in the classroom. People are promoted into leadership roles when they cannot perform effectively in the classroom. In order for our schools to prosper, these practices must stop.

We need people who can build those relationships and will advocate for the students and teachers in the building, not those that make decisions on how it will impact their role in the school system. We need leaders who can help shape a generation of teachers, not ones that make teachers wish they had chosen a different profession. I have admitted that I do not know the answer to this difficult question but it is a question that must be asked and must be asked now.

Kenneth has served Huntsville Middle School for the last fifteen years most of that time has been spent teaching 7th and 8th grade history. He has served as the school’s Athletic Director, Department Chair and on various committees for the school. He also currently serves his county as the Scott County Education Association Vice President. Kenneth received his Bachelor’s degree in History from Tennessee Tech and his Master’s in School Leadership from Bethel University. During the 2016-17 school year, Kenneth was selected by SCORE to serve as a Tennessee Educator Fellow. Outside of the classroom Kenneth represents Scott County’s fourth district on the County Commission and is the Secretary-Treasurer of the Scott County 911 board. He also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging his colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

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