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My Philosophy of Educational Leadership

Critical Element Paper #1 Presented to the Department of Educational Leadership and Postsecondary Education University of Northern Iowa

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Advanced Studies Certificate

by Kelly K. Westley Waterloo, IA November 10, 2011

Dr. Charles McNulty

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I would define an educational philosophy as your core beliefs on education. Since graduation, my philosophy has changed, and will continue to change as I grow and encounter more experiences as both a teacher and a leader. Experience, research, values and situations have all contributed to the development of my philosophy. This paper will provide an in depth overview of my philosophy. The decision to choose educational leadership, what qualities will make me successful as a leader, my expectations for all stakeholders, and connection to the Iowa Standards for School Leaders (ISSL) will all be discussed in this overview. Why Educational Leadership? My first inclination to pursue an advanced degree and possibly a career in educational leadership began with the suggestion from the director of special education. She told my mom I should consider getting an administrative license, because she believed I would make a great administrator. This happened just as I began my teaching career. It was never a question of if I would get my master‟s degree, but when. After my second year of teaching, I took a year off to complete a master‟s degree focusing on special education. After teaching for two years as a special educator, and ambitions to become a consultant, an advanced degree in special education seemed to make sense. Unfortunately, UNI no longer offered the consulting endorsement, so I received a generic special education degree with hopes to complete the consulting classes later. I began working towards my consulting endorsement last fall, but after taking one class I decided the education I was receiving for the money was not worth it. I was left to ponder, what next, where do I want to go from here? This lasted a few months and my principal approached me about the educational leadership program at UNI. She believed I would be a strong candidate and stated she would be happy to write a letter of recommendation. Receiving an administrative license was now at the forefront and it seemed like a great time to begin another program.

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Effective teaching is the best way to make change with students and raise student achievement. In turn, I believe the best way to make change in teaching is to hire effective leaders. Later, I will describe what I believe is effective leading and teaching. I have always been a natural leader; my preschool teacher once said I would grow up to become a politician. I am passionate about what I believe and will always advocate for what is best for students. Becoming a leader will not only allow me to advocate, but put me in a position to make the change. Qualifications for Leadership There are a number of qualities I possess that will assist me with becoming a successful leader. First, basing all decisions on the students is the main part of my philosophy. All other beliefs fall under this. Each decision that is made must be based on what is best for the students and how it will impact student learning. As a leader I will have the ability to make tough decisions. Keeping in mind first, students best interest, and next my best teachers. Whitaker (2003) states, “base every decision on your best teachers” (p. 67). Even though some decisions are hard to make I feel I would be able to make and then stand by those tough decisions. This is a critical qualification because I want to keep effective teachers in the classrooms. One of the strongest qualifications I possess is my passion for life-long learning. Education is changing by the day and as a leader it is important to participate in continual educational development. Staying abreast of best practice and implementing those into the classroom is critical. As a life-long learner staying up to date on the newest technologies is also crucial. Having the ability to take risks and try out new technologies in the classroom and learning from those who have been successful are all qualities I possess.

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I will be a strong instructional leader, as a life-longer learner I am constantly changing and adapting my teaching style to best meet the needs of my students. My ability to implement a variety of strategies with struggling students to promote student success has allowed for leadership of teams such as problem solving and intervention committees. I strongly believe in collaboration and developing mutual respect and rapport with all stakeholders involved. As a leader, I would collaborate with students, staff, parents, and the outside community to work toward our shared vision. Respect is not automatic it is something you must earn, and as a leader I will work hard to earn that respect from all involved. With the mutual respect and rapport my teachers feel they will be comfortable and willing take risks in their teaching. Stakeholders Expectations of Me My stakeholders can expect me to be committed and dedicated to all learners. They will know I will always make decisions based on students‟ best interest. Stakeholders can expect change. I will work as a change agent for increased student achievement. My Expectations of Stakeholders Teachers I will expect my teachers to be committed to their jobs and their students. Again, all of their decisions should be based on students. Last, it will be important for my teachers to have strong classroom management skills and the ability to collaborate. Students As a leader I will expect my students to come to school ready to learn. They will need motivation to be successful. Also, students should follow the golden rule and treat others as they want to be treated. They need to be respectful of all.

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Community The community plays a critical role in a school‟s success. I will expect the community to provide support in any way they can to assist with student success. I would welcome them to become actively involved in school, as volunteers, mentors, in any capacity possible. Connection to ISSL and Research Whitaker (2003) states, “outstanding principals know that if they great teachers, they have a great school; without great teachers, they do not have a great school” (p. 7). As a leader I will work hard to hire highly effective teachers. Whitaker believes it is all about the teachers not about the programs. My philosophy as an educator is strongly aligned with much of Whitaker‟s writing. I believe it is imperative to be willing to make tough decisions regarding effective teaching and best practice. Base every decision on our best teachers. Furthermore, if we can trust our effective teachers and allow them to „teach‟ using best practice, not programs, there will be increased student success. Whitaker writes, “we want the ones who are uncomfortable to change in a positive directions; we don‟t want to create an uncomfortable situation for our best teachers” (p. 74). The other idea I would like to emulate as an administrator is Whitaker‟s focus in Chapter 4, “treat everyone with respect everyday” (p. 21). It will be crucial to do this with all stakeholders. Providing positive praise for teachers is covered in this chapter, this is a crucial piece of effective leadership. Giving props to those who deserve it, because “authentic praise is a powerful reinforcer and motivator” (Whitaker, p. 24). “The principal who sets a positive tone can influence the interactions of everyone on the school” (p. 25). Marzano, Waters, and McNulty (2005) devised the 21 responsibilities of the school leader; a number of the leadership qualifications I believe I posses are reflected in these responsibilities. First, a change agent “willing to challenge and actively challenges the status

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quo,” is a qualification I believe I possess and will employ as a school leader (p. 42) Other responsibilities I hold are focus, input, and knowledge of the curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Robbins and Alvy (2009) discuss the idea of “leading and learning by wandering around” (p. 14), and this connects well with ISSL two and three. By being present in the halls I will know what is happening in the classrooms. Furthermore, I can stay abreast of operational concerns, ISS three, organizational management. Conclusion Since I began teaching, my educational philosophy has evolved and as I step into the role of administrator I am sure it will continue to change. However my core beliefs will always stay the same. I will always base all my decisions on the students. Next, collaboration is essential for success. I must continually strive to develop mutual respect and rapport for all stakeholders involved. And finally, being a life-long learner, these beliefs will provide me with a strong foundation to become an effective leader.

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References Marzano, R.J., Walters, T., & McNulty, B.A. (2005). School leadership that works: From research to results. Denver: Mid-continent Research for Educational and Learning. Robbins, P., & Alvy, H.B. (2009). The principal‟s companion third edition: Strategies for making the job easier. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin. Whitaker, T., (2003). What great principals do differently: Fifteen things that matter most. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education, Inc.