A career spent in the classroom can be rich and fulfilling, and teachers are critical to the success of all students. But for educators whose ultimate goal is to make changes in the educational system as a whole, time spent in the classroom may not get you where you want to go.
If you’re keen on a career in educational leadership — as a vice principal, principal, district administrator or superintendent — you may need a career map that aids your progress. Here are three areas of focus to help you on your way:
1. Earn an Advanced Degree
The first step is to acquire the in-depth pedagogical knowledge of a Master of Education in Educational Leadership degree like the one offered by Louisiana State University Shreveport. Through coursework focused on a range of topics including educational research and technology leadership, the M.Ed. program offers graduates the chance to build on existing experience and ultimately benefit the schools and communities in which they serve.
This graduate degree program equips future leaders with knowledge of educational theories and research methods to inform their planning and curriculum design. It also covers legal and ethical issues in educational leadership and management. Completing an internship with supervision from a local school district administrator and an LSUS faculty member enables candidates to apply what they learn in the program to a real-world setting.
2. Find a Mentor
Prospective school administrators would also be wise to find a mentor who will act as an advisor and guide them in career planning. Reaching out to your immediate network for mentorship is a good place to start. A mentor in your network knows specifically what you are going through, and they know your colleagues. They are aware that helping someone in their network helps them as well.
3. Gain Leadership Experience
Good school administrators have usually had plenty of practical classroom experience, so if your ultimate goal is to lead the school or district, start acquiring the necessary leadership skills even as you perfect your classroom role. Serving on school committees and offering to orient and coach new teachers are two ways to hone your leadership skills outside the classroom.
Qualities of Exceptional Educational Leaders
Great educational leaders have certain traits in common.
- They are excellent communicators who can motivate and inspire.
- As organized multi-taskers, they are capable of balancing multiple resources and budgets.
- They share a commitment to improving education at the local, state and national levels.
- They are genuinely interested in helping staff and students to excel, providing clear direction and leadership.
- They are trustworthy and respected members of the community.
After You Get the Job
Once you have secured a new position in school administration, making the transition out of the classroom and into a leadership role can be challenging. It’s important to network and make connections with other educational leaders and managers as these groups can offer advice and support.
You’ll want to introduce yourself to the local community, school staff, students, parents and even local business leaders. Consider holding a meeting to give others the opportunity to ask you questions and get to know you a little better. You can share your plans for the coming year and make connections, too.
Once you secure your first leadership role, don’t forget the people who helped you get there. Be sure to keep in touch with mentors, professors and advisors who facilitated your transition. You’re likely to need their advice and support in your first few years as a school administrator, but more importantly, staying in touch is a way to acknowledge their contribution to your growth.
Learn about the LSUS M.Ed. in Educational Leadership online program.
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