Thoughts About School Leadership

One of the most vital aspects of school improvement is the ability for the leader of a school (or any organization for that matter) to choose employees and followers that they can trust to buy into, take ownership of, and serve a vision. Desravines (2016) recognized this integral aspect of leadership, and although doing so can be difficult in the face of organized labor, intimidation, or fear, a leader must stay true to their vision and bring others along who believe in it.

The first step to take in achieving buy-in is to listen to every staff member across the school and allow them to share their experiences working there; what they like; what they would improve; what they would get rid of; and how they would make the school the best it could be. It's not about implementing every idea you hear; it's about allowing all staff with the opportunity to be heard.

My former headteacher did this at one of my schools in London, and it gave her an opportunity to speak with every member of staff – from the paraprofessionals to the assistant headteachers, and she was able to determine who she could bring along for the ride.

Having written 5 or 6 different curriculums in two countries, I have first-hand experience on how to create buy-in… and how to annoy people! Research around best-practice principles for reading, writing, and mathematics are clear. There appears to be a way that works right now, and these can be easy choices for school and district leaders to make. What is more challenging is how to select humanities and content curriculum that engages students, improves social-emotional learning, and develops character. Watkins (2011) established three different ways of viewing classroom learning communities, and how a teacher views their role is extremely important – as is how they give access to the curriculum. Teachers are transmitters of knowledge, supporters of independence, and facilitators of community growth. Humanities curricula, extracurricular activities, and real-life work experiences are great training grounds for what life is like outside school. By creating learning communities, as Watkins noticed, teachers help students develop a creative community climate, and those skills extend well beyond the four walls of a classroom.


Desravines, J., Aquino, J., & Fenton, B. (2016). Breakthrough principals: A step-by-step guide to building stronger schoolsJ. Jossey-Bass, Chapter 8-Chapter 9.

Watkins, C. (2011). Learning: a sense-maker’s guide. London: Association of Teachers and Lecturers