In the ever-evolving landscape of education, the role of a principal or headteacher extends beyond administrative duties. A key component that often gets overshadowed is their involvement in actual teaching. Regularly teaching one or two classes or stepping in as a substitute teacher can profoundly impact the school's ecosystem, benefiting not just the students but also the teachers and the principals themselves.
For school leaders, I ask that you remember the reasons that drew you to education. Teaching a few classes will reconnect you with that initial passion. It's an opportunity to engage directly with students, to experience the joys and challenges of teaching firsthand. This experience will not only keep you grounded but also ensure that your decisions are deeply rooted in the realities of classroom life.
To your dedicated teachers, seeing you in the classroom is inspiring. It shows you understand the intricacies of teaching and are willing to share in their experiences. This act of solidarity can be a powerful morale booster. It could also offer you valuable insights, enhancing the empathy and effectiveness of your leadership.
For students, having their principal as a teacher is both unique and motivating. It bridges the gap between administration and students, fostering a sense of community and mutual respect. Your presence in the classroom can ignite a new enthusiasm for learning among students, showing them that education is a shared journey.
While I can fully appreciate that it is difficult to make time for teaching even one class consistently, cover teaching is also a great option to bring your leadership into the class and a great way to meet students where they are in a slightly less formal role in the hallways as the ‘big and important principal’. When you are in the classroom, you have the authority that any other can and should have in your school and it makes you more approachable to those students.
Your active participation in teaching can create a more cohesive and unified school environment. It symbolizes a leadership that is inclusive, collaborative, and deeply invested in the educational process. This approach can transform the school culture, promoting a shared vision and collective effort towards educational excellence.
You might liken this idea to a CEO, CTO, COO…. all the CO and leadership in a company, coming back to do some work with a lower tier in the company. Making time to take on a small project or look to do a little grunt work for a brief period in time to show that they are willing to roll up their sleeves and work at all levels of the company. It can bring new insight to the processes that the company relies on or create new connections and feedback which would not have otherwise happened.
It's a chance to enrich your professional life and make a lasting impact on your school community. Embrace the opportunity to teach—it’s a gesture that will resonate throughout your school, creating an atmosphere of shared learning, respect, and progress.
Thanks for reading
Cheers and stay curious
Oliver - The Teaching Astrophysicist