Principals wear many hats within the school, but perhaps the most important hat is that of instructional leader. The role of the principal as an instructional leader is to maximize learning for all teachers and in turn of all students (Fullan, 2014). Often, the role of instructional leader is too constricted and thus results in micromanaging. In previous years, principals focused on working with teachers one-on-one, molding each teacher individually into their vision. Micromanaging is not an effective way to teach educators. Instead, the principal must invest in leading and learning alongside of the staff while creating a school culture that thrives on collaborative professional learning. It is crucial for a principal to create autonomy amongst the staff. This can be accomplished by developing and focusing on goals and expectations, allowing teachers the opportunity to be leaders, building a schedule that facilitates student learning, and establishing an environment that is collaborative and provides frequent opportunities for observation and discussion.
Dr. Robin Hamilton, principal of Parsley Elementary School, is a strong instructional leader. Dr. Hamilton has established a school-wide schedule that allows teachers daily, collaborative planning time and maximizes instructional time. Professional Learning Teams have been created to foster teacher learning. Sterrett (2011) makes reference to a quote by DuFour stating that Professional Learning Communities should “focus on learning rather than teaching, work collaboratively, and hold (ourselves) accountable for results” (p. 23). During the weekly scheduled grade level Professional Learning Teams, teachers at Parsley Elementary School meet as a group to analyze student data and make adjustments to instruction. As a team, they work collaboratively to choose strategies, make adjustments to small groups, and improve instructional practices. Dr. Hamilton occasionally facilitates Professional Learning Teams throughout the year or when she is asked to come and participate.
As a future school leader, it is imperative that when creating autonomy amongst the staff, I am celebrating successes within the school, allowing time for teachers to share ideas, methods, and strategies that are contributing to student success, and offer opportunities for teachers to observe other teachers and initiate their own professional learning experiences. According to Sterrett (2013), faculty meetings provide a platform to implement many of these components. One of my professional goals is to establish meetings that maximize learning for teachers. Certain information can be relayed in a daily bulletin, email, or video. Professional learning, collaboration, and practice should occur during faculty meetings. According to Sterrett (2013), faculty meetings could also serve as a platform for Professional Learning Teams. These teams could be differentiated based on the needs of teachers and provide teachers the opportunity to collaborate with teachers in a different grade level.
As a future school leader, it is also important to encourage teachers to learn from each other. Sterrett (2013) states it is the duty of the principal to facilitate peer observations by establishing expectations, providing mental models, and building time in to the daily schedule for teachers to observe other teachers. Peer observations motivate meaningful learning and collaboration amongst staff members and promote self-reflection (Sterrett, 2013).
In addition to maximizing learning opportunities for teachers and staff members, it will be my responsibility to build a daily schedule that maximizes instructional time. In order to maximize instructional time, it is crucial to provide substantial time for core academic instruction and a daily, common planning time for grade-level teachers and specialist teachers. In efforts to ensure that the daily, common planning time is used effectively, it will be my responsibility to instruct and motivate teachers on how to use this time to collaborate and share instructional ideas and strategies to improve student learning.
Instructional leadership is a prominent characteristic an effective principal must possess. The principal must be knowledgeable of best practices, model instruction, facilitate teacher-to-teacher learning, and maximize instructional time for both teachers and students. It is the duty of the principal to establish high standards for professional learning that will positively impact school performance.
Fullan, M. (2014). The principal: three keys to maximizing impact. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Sterrett, W. L. (2011). Insights into action: successful school leaders share what works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Sterrett, W.L. (2013). Short on time: how do I make time to lead and learn as a principal?. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.