Students aren’t learning. Presentations are broken. Lectures don’t work. It is time for a teaching and learning revolution. In Superteachers: An Introduction (read more here), we learn that superteachers embody five key qualities. Part One on Creativity, Part Two on Passion For Learning, Part Three on Doing The Work, and Part Four on Optimism cover the first of these five characteristics.
We now focus on the fifth and final characteristic of a superteacher: continuous development of leadership potential. Leadership in a superteacher is just as important as leadership in a CEO or a president of a company. Superteachers’ leadership skills directly influence and shape the minds and lives of thousands of students. A superteacher is never satisfied with his or her present level of leadership and always works to improve those abilities.
Similarly, a superteacher works to develop the leadership potential of his or her students. It isn’t enough to be a strong leader yourself; it’s important to cultivate that trait in others.
I’ve worked to develop my personal leadership potential in a specific area: public speaking and presentation. I took my current job in January, 2010, to teach courses with the English Department at Full Sail University. At first, I was hired to teach Interpersonal Communication courses in the classroom. When that course moved to another department, I stayed on to teach English Composition, but I was suddenly given the amazing opportunity to teach Public Speaking courses. Though my B.A. and M.A. degrees are in English, I discovered my passion in life: teaching all forms of communication: written, verbal, and visual. Because I didn’t have a degree or previous academic knowledge of the new subject I was teaching, I dove into self-study. In the past 3 years, I’ve spent more than a thousand hours training myself by researching and reading everything I could get my hands on. Am I an expert? Certainly not. But I’ve developed my leadership potential in this new area of communication, and my goal is to work hard to become an expert.
So how can you develop your leadership potential in the classroom? First, you must join the presentation revolution and commit to creating effective content for your students. Next, you must continuously ask for critique and review from your colleagues, your students, and your boss so that you can become a better leader. Finally, you must push yourself each day to learn more, to be more, and to do more for your students. The main idea here is change. A leader knows positive growth and change is what it takes to develop leadership potential.
Not only does a superteacher develop his or her own leadership potential, but he or she also focuses on developing the leadership potential in others. In his book 5 Levels of Leadership, John Maxwell explains that Level 4 is about fostering those qualities in others.
I try to do this as much as I can in the classroom, but it’s definitely tough with everything else on a superteacher’s to-do list. I got a chance to really cultivate this spirit of leadership in August, 2012, when I had one of the best classes of my entire teaching career. August PCP was committed to success; 10 out of 15 students worked hard to earn an “A” that month. I’ve never seen students so driven to do well. When it came time for me to select the one student from the group who should earn the high achievement Course Director’s Award, I almost couldn’t make a decision. Then, I thought about my goal as a leader: to inspire others to be leaders, too.
I didn’t select the Course Director’s Award recipient based on highest grade or best public speaking ability because nearly 70% of students would have been in the running using that criteria. Instead, I selected the award recipient based upon the leadership I saw in the classroom. One particular young man stood above his classmates in this area. Not only did he try his hardest to do well, but he also encouraged others to succeed. When I asked him if he was worried about an absent, computer-less teammate for a collaborative speech, this young man stepped up to the plate and told me he would make it his mission to lead that group to success. Not only did he do well on that team speech, but his leadership helped his fellow classmate do well, too.
John Maxwell says that strong leaders “look at every person and try to gauge his or potential to grow and lead—regardless of the individual’s title, position, age, or experience. Every person is a potential candidate for development” (Source). Are you cultivating leadership in every student in your classroom? Are you developing your superteacher leadership potential? Are you developing the potential of others?