Why Educational Leadership
My “why” for educational leadership is because of these leaders of whom modeled, groomed, and supported my leadership journey: Dr. Nancy Grasmick, former superintendent, Maryland State Department of Education, Dr. Jerry D. Weast, former superintendent, Montgomery County Public Schools, and Dr. Frieda K. Lacey, former deputy superintendent, Montgomery County Public Schools. Each leader recognized my leadership capabilities, zeal for knowledge, and the desire to explore and analyze data to uncover student success and needs. Additionally, strategic leaders should garner staff support and collectively—regardless of students’ economic situations and or zip code—believe and act on the notion that all students deserve a quality education. Furthermore, it was extremely important as the leader to diminish the notion that race was not a predictor of student success.
From the many people who inspired me along my leadership journey, one in particular, Dr. Weast, helped me to understand who I should be as a leader. During his tenure as superintendent, he modeled his passion and commitment for learning and ensured that principals had access to technological advances, professional learning, current research, support for students, and the expectation that teachers implemented curriculum with fidelity which maximized learning for students. There was strong evidence that we achieved sustained results. Mike Schmoker (1999) stated, “If you do it the same way, you will get the same results.” So, during my tenure as principal, l facilitated and created the conditions for grade level teams, the school improvement team, and teachers to analyze data and have discussions to determine student progress and our next level of work. This collaboration allowed teachers to capture each other’s fund of collective intelligence (Schmoker 1999). Hence, the review of data at monthly or quarterly meetings moved from percentages to student names. Achievement results caused teams to examine and consider delivery of instruction methodologies coupled with the need for professional learning. I conquer that “things get done only if the data we gather can inform and inspire those in a position to make a difference” (Schmoker 1999).
There were two philosophies and theoretical conceptual frameworks that guided my practice which spoke to how the actions and commitments of exemplary leadership should be demonstrated. Kouzes and Posners (1995, 2017) espoused when leaders are at their best, they:
• Challenge the status quo
• Inspire a shared vision
• Enable others to act (perpetuate collaboration, mutual trust, and share power)
• Model the way
• Encourage the heart
Each of us has the capacity to lead (Aronovici, 2000), yet the leader who makes a difference must learn to lead, learn from mistakes, observe practice, and learn from other leaders. Moreover, exemplary leaders have a proven record of success and foster a spirit of continual learning to deepen their leadership repertoire and that of staff members.
Leadership is lonely and exemplary leaders should recognize and model the notion of the reciprocity of accountability. Moreover, there is the importance to foster an ethos of collectivism, and the significance of relationships. Leaders at their best create the social space for all voices including divergent perspectives to be heard, has a diverse competent team (Robbins and Harvey, 2010) of teacher leaders for consultation to tap the strength and knowledge of those in the organization through collaboration and shared power. Why, for the pursuit of sustained excellence through teaching and learning for the achievement of students.
Our current context requires leaders with knowledge, heart, passion, and the commitment to lead and enable others to act. The Educational Leadership program at Loyola University Maryland is invested in the preparation of aspiring leaders. We offer virtual programs customized to current leadership contexts with a proven record of success in the preparation and appointment of high performing leaders across the State of Maryland. Come to Loyola, learn to lead with proven leaders from districts in the State of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the archdioceses so you too can lead.
Dr. Myra J. Smith is a senior lecturer in the Educational Leadership program at Loyola University Maryland and former associate superintendent, Montgomery County Public Schools.