Leadership Options

An art teacher asked me recently how she might pursue opportunities to grow and advance her career. There is, of course, nothing small about a career in the classroom, but some teachers want to do more, and frankly, I think education has a lot to gain by having more art teachers take on leadership roles. So what are some of the avenues an art teacher might consider?

The Light at the Top of the Stairs by Jean Barrett, art teacher.
The Light at the Top of the Stairs by Jean Barrett, art teacher.

With a perspective biased toward PK-12 public education, here are three approaches to consider:

  1. Instructional leadership in a teacher role
  2. Involvement in your art education association
  3. Supervision and administration

Instructional Leadership in a Teacher Role
There are many opportunities to develop leadership abilities and responsibilities while remaining in the role of a teacher. Here are some things you can do to take on new responsibilities, and perhaps prepare you for the next steps in your career.

  • Share your knowledge and expertise with other art teachers by providing professional development. This might mean offering an informal, after-school training session; helping to plan or deliver a part of a division in-service; or becoming an instructor for an academy or university.
  • Become a department chairperson or collaborative team leader. If your school is a professional learning community or you work in a collaborative environment, your school likely needs teachers to lead the work of departments and collaborative learning teams.  In my district we are also working to develop multi-school art CLTs to support the needs of art teachers who are singletons in their schools.
  • Get involved in curriculum development. Whether at the local, division, or state level, helping to write or revise curriculum is a great way to take a big-picture look at what we do, and have an impact on the quality of instruction in more than just your classroom.
  •  A more dramatic approach, still technically in a teacher role, is to pursue a position as an instructional coach. While this may vary depending on where you are, in my district this is an elementary position supporting all teachers in a school. For our schools, instructional coaches need a deep understanding of elementary math and language arts curriculum and instruction.

This last example might require experience in an elementary classroom. Some of the other experiences might not even be available options in your current school. While certainly not necessary to grow and advance your career, occasionally a transfer to a different school, from an elementary to a secondary position, or from an art to a classroom position will open up new opportunities for a teacher to grow. Consider whether this might be something you need to pursue.

Involvement in a Local Art Education Association
Art education associations offer a wide range of opportunities for art teachers to get involved in their profession and take on leadership roles. This approach that keeps you very close to art teachers and art teaching.

Becoming a member is the first step! As a member, you can attend local events, go to annual conferences, and get involved. A great way to get involved is to submit a conference presentation proposal and take advantage of the opportunity to share what you are doing with other teachers in your state and country.

Once involved, I think you will find that your association is ripe with opportunities for leadership. The organization always needs teachers to help organize events, and serve on committees. Getting involved can open the door to many more opportunities including the possibility of running for local, regional, state, and national office.

Supervision and Administration
The world of supervision and administration is always an option for teachers, and I strongly believe we need more art teachers to become school leaders. We are fortunate, locally, to have a number of programs that are partnerships between the school district and local universities designed to prepare teachers for school leadership in our division. Training in these programs results in an endorsement on your license for K-12 supervision and administration (and sometimes a degree) which allows teachers to pursue assistant principal or director of student services positions, and potentially work their way up to being a principal or seeking other leadership roles in PK-12 education.

Not all teachers see themselves in these roles, and that’s ok. It’s not for everyone, but our schools are always in need of good leaders, and I believe it is extremely important to develop more leaders who understand the role of the arts and electives in the schools and in the lives of children.

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