There are some traits that I believe stand out above all in great educators and school leaders. These traits typify the ideal of having educators that are lifelong learners striving to be the very best that they can be and making a positive difference to students and the school community at large.
Reflective, Student-Centered Educators
The best educators not only seek to learn new things, they are open to feedback, guidance and advice on what they should be doing to improve. Many advocate that professional growth and learning should be teacher driven. There is, however, a fundamental flaw with only using that approach. Some teachers cannot see what it is they need to improve in order to have maximum impact on student learning, using high yield strategies. I have pointed out before that there is a difference between an experienced educator and an expert. Good educators will seek advice on areas for improvement and, coupled with personal reflection, will move into developing important skills to better their craft. In doing so, they go beyond teacher-centered, personal preferences to truly appreciating the need to be student centered. Such educators are highly adaptable and seek to understand the mission, vision and values of a school, supporting it wholeheartedly in the knowledge that each school and classroom is different.
Efficient and Effective Educators
Good educators look beyond the limits of time in seeking to improve. For example, a teacher who is spending a significant amount of time buried in marking student work, may ask the question: Is there is a better way to do this? In their search for better ways, leading educators look for two things: How to be effective and how to be more efficient. They understand that our quest to be more efficient must not compromise the quality of what we do; retaining our current level of effectiveness, or improving upon it is key. High performance school leaders are able to coach their teachers in wrestling with the tension that a lack of time brings and its merit as a reason for not doing something that can improve student learning. Such educators are ambitious in their aspirations for student learning yet pragmatic when unreasonable demands are made. They completely understand that a marginal gains approach is the best way to both improve themselves and their school.
When designing programs that support teacher and leader professional growth and learning in our schools, attention is paid to exploring these two traits in depth and using them as springboards to improve our schools.