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Classroom Leadership

Leadership moments in the classroom

Response from “Ask a Former Board Trustee”- Clear Creek ISD Chapter: Joanna Baleson, Ken Baliker, Jennifer Broddle, Bob Davee, Glenn Freedman, Ann Hammond, Charlie Pond, Page Rander Dee Scott, Win Weber © AFTCCISD2022

What is a classroom leadership moment?

The average teacher makes around 1,500 educational decisions on an average day. That is about 4 per minute. Those decisions are varied, depending on the decision’s context. For example, in any given day, a teacher may act as an information provider, discipline dispenser, therapist, evaluator, surrogate parent, administrator, clerk, facilitator, technology specialist, role model, medical professional, or surrogate parent. (

Each decision is a moment when a teacher acts or reacts as an educational leader – or not. Those decisions, and subsequent actions, are classroom leadership moments because of their impact on students and groups of students.

How can we understand these leadership moments?

Often classroom leadership is defined in terms of discrete behaviors, such as defining a vision, handling difficult conversations or giving feedback, coaching and mentoring, influencing and inspiring, accomplishing a task and so on. However, in the context of 1,500 decisions per day, a teacher’s leadership behaviors are blended, organic, interactive, and build on one another through time. Further, the teacher’s overall effectiveness – as perceived by students – is impacted by the perceptions of the teacher’s fairness, predictability, consistency, and values, all of which accumulate through the waterfall of leadership moments.

Teachers draw out the best work from their students by intentionally communicating purpose, receptivity to the student’s needs, and creating an environment conducive to growth, academically and psychologically. (Inspired by

How can a teacher’s behaviors lead to leadership moments?

Master teachers can be observed leadership moments using certain behavior patterns. For example:
1. They are fully engaged in the act of teaching.
2. They create a safe, trusting environment.
3. They handle failure and mistakes (in students and themselves) as growth opportunities.
4. Their communication skills blend body language, voice modulation, and words to convey their message.
5. They listen with their brain, heart and ears fully engaged.
6. They express their high, but reasonable, expectations.
7. They know when to help and when not to intercede.
8. They provide feedback based on actions and data, rather than emotion or opinion.
9. They have empathy.
10. They live and model the concept of being a ‘life-long learner.’

How can we recognize leadership moments?

Ask yourself, “What has a teacher done or said that changed you for the better?” or “When did a teacher bring you more certainty, clarity, understanding, or comfort?” or “When did a teacher act quickly on your behalf when you needed help?”

Those are the leadership moments in your life.

The 1500+ daily decisions a teacher makes can be the leadership moments that change classrooms and students in countless positive ways.

(Written June 2022; Revised December 2022)

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