For years, educational reform experts have suggested school administrators need to become the instructional leaders of their buildings. While I agree with this assertion, I quite often find myself struggling to define the term "instructional leader." Luckily, I recently had the opportunity to read Hacking Leadership by Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis. In this outstanding book (I currently have the book ranked in my top 12), the authors do an exceptional job defining the qualities and characteristics of an instructional leader.
I combined the concepts that Joe and Tony wrote about with my own thoughts and created my definition of an instructional leader. What you see below are four paragraphs I have copied and pasted from a document called STC School Administration - Expectations and Responsibilities. This is a document I have developed and shared with our school administrators in my district. While I can't say we are fulfilling these commitments 100% of the time (I know I personally tend to get caught up in the daily "whirlwind" quite easily!), I am satisfied knowing we have a clear definition for how we can transition from school managers to instructional leaders.
"For the South Tama County School District to operate at the highest levels, we expect our administrators to go beyond the traditional role of school manager, disciplinarian, evaluator, and supervisor. Rather than managing school from the office, we expect our administrators to serve as lead learners for the staff and students they lead. Furthermore, we expect our administrators to serve as the instructional and visionary leaders of our district.
How do STC administrators demonstrate these leadership characteristics? First, they are expected to spend time engaging with students and teachers by being present in classrooms and visible throughout the entire school community. Our administrators have the soft skills to nurture healthy, trusting relationships with all stakeholders. They smile, listen attentively, lead with optimism, and act as role models. They understand building relationships are as important to educational philosophy as standards, policies, and test scores. Our administrators realize when students feel valued, they will develop the confidence to take risks with their learning. Likewise, when our teachers feel trusted, they will have the courage to push their students to high levels of learning.
Next, STC administrators will foster trust by being collaborative. As opposed to making decisions in isolation, our administrators encourage all members of the school community to have a voice. It is the responsibility of our administrators to actively listen to others and engage in meaningful conversations to gain perspective. They realize when they are intentional about seeking out productive interactions with all stakeholders, they are provided with valuable insight and feedback needed to make decisions that best meet the needs of our students.
Finally, STC administrators realize that communication is the beating heart of school culture. They understand when they communicate at high levels, this will create a significant positive impact on the entire school community. Our administrators consistently utilize timely, accurate, and transparent communication. They realize when they communicate in a genuine way, they will earn trust that contributes to a positive environment. Ultimately, STC administrators understand every single communication has a direct impact on the culture in their buildings."