Friday, August 30, 2013

Classroom Leadership

I've been thinking a lot about leadership lately ...

• I am directing an 8th grade choral group of 85 students this year
• I am mentoring a new MS/HS choral director in our district this year
• I am in my 3rd year of K-12 leadership in our music department
• We have some transitions at my elementary school (my "home" school)
• Our keynote speaker for the week focused on attitudes and leadership

I am thinking about leadership mainly because I will have a choir of at least 85 eighth grade students, all in one section.  This was not the fault of a guidance department error or some other schedule anomaly.  I asked for it.  The principal checked my sanity several times.  The guidance people checked to be sure, too.  District-level people checked to be sure this was not a mistake.  It was not.  I asked for it.

For the past several years, my Middle School choirs have been split into two sections.   It would be two sections of about 35 students each.   We would combine for ONE joint rehearsal right before a concert.  It worked.  Barely.  But it wasn't fair to the students.  When students are learning to sing in parts, there is strength in numbers.  Last year, I decided that academically ... musically ... it was the right time to make a change.  So I asked for it.  And they're coming next week.

That brings me back to leadership.

Educators are expected to be natural leaders.  Music educators are expected to be natural leaders with large groups of students from day one.  Principals and coaches are expected to do the same as well.  In a society where most people would say leadership is earned, teachers are dropped into the midst of the storm.

I am a true believer in servant leadership.  That fits the role of a teacher perfectly.  Strong leadership, but always from a foundation of service.  My favorite quote about leadership comes from Max DePree, a CEO famous for his leadership skills.  He said "The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.  The last is to say 'thank you'.  In between, the leader is a servant."  That's the role of a teacher - to define reality (here's where we're at and here's the vision), and at the end to thank all those who made it happen.  In between, the leader is a servant.

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