The positive impact that K-12 leaders can have on the wider community

K-12 leaders form the backbone of our communities, helping to shape the citizens of tomorrow. Since they work in schools and colleges with the youngest members of society, their influence is wide-ranging and long-lasting.

In this article, we’ll look at what K-12 leadership is and how it impacts on individual students, teaching staff and the wider community. We’ll start by discovering how the positive attitude and behaviors shown by educational leaders can impact society long after their students have completed their schooling.

And those who find the discussion inspirational can explore how to prepare for a K-12 leadership role themselves by embarking on a course of further study. This article outlines the significance of K-12 leadership and how it can make a positive difference to many different lives. It also explains the steps to take to work in a K-12 leadership role, which can offer a highly fulfilling career.

What is K-12 leadership?

K-12 leadership refers to the talented professionals who lead in K-12 establishments, so that is in the educational sector all the way from kindergarten through to 12th grade. They may work in a role such as a school principal, administrator or superintendent. K-12 leaders are likely to be experienced teachers themselves or have worked in an education setting in another role before taking on this high-level responsibility.

Alternatively, they may come from a different field, such as business. In this case, they may have undergone additional training and taken a postgraduate qualification to prepare them for the challenges of K-12 leadership.

To be a strong and successful K-12 leader, an individual should offer a wide array of skills. These include strong interpersonal skills such as communication, collaboration and diplomacy. Great K-12 leaders must also be able to strike a balance between strong emotional intelligence skills to enable them to empathize with and understand individuals and critical thinking, allowing them to take a step back when required to make the most appropriate decisions.

Know that K-12 leaders work together as a team, drawing from their varying skills and experience to direct their establishment. They will understand the individual strengths of each team member so that combined, their skills can serve their students, school and the community they live in.

At all times, they must collectively put the best interests of their school or college first, leaving aside any prejudices or personal preferences. In short, their mission should be to lead their establishment in a positive direction, for the good of individual students, teaching staff and the wider community.

The actions of K-12 leaders have wide-ranging impacts on these individuals and groups, which means their position is one of great responsibility. We’ll explore what these impacts mean in the following section.

How K-12 leaders make an impact

K-12 leaders make an impact on many levels. Of course, their attitude and behaviors directly affect the students under their care, as well as their teaching and support staff. How they direct their school will also impact the communities they serve. Let’s find out more about how each of these groups benefit from the expertise of K-12 leaders.

Impact on individual students

One way K-12 leaders are making a significant impact on individual students is through applying best practice to learning methods and experiences. So, instead of sticking with traditional teaching methods, K-12 leaders have the vision to explore innovative ways to achieve the best student outcomes. To do this, they may network with other K-12 leaders to explore diverse teaching practices that have been proven to yield positive academic outcomes.

Engaged K-12 leaders will also have a thirst for expanding their knowledge through attending professional events and reading up on the latest research. This enables them to identify the most productive teaching methods for use in their establishments. Students directly benefit from this approach, which offers them the most effective pathway to achieving their personal best.

Another way K-12 leaders can have a positive impact on students is by fostering a positive culture in their organization. This makes it a place where everyone is welcome, and students feel respected. In turn, students value their teachers and support staff, enhancing the positive atmosphere in the school. For example, K-12 leaders can nurture a positive culture by implementing a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) system. Instead of focusing on punishing bad behavior, a PBIS approach teaches students positive behaviors strategies. Expectations are clearly set out, so that students can understand what they need to do to fulfill standards.

Students are encouraged to practice positive behavior and receive feedback. This means they are well-equipped to deal with real-life scenarios when positive behavior is expected. K-12 leaders support teachers to set expectations and encourage good behavior. This is a school-wide policy, with extra support offered for students who struggle to manage their behavior. By nurturing a proactive, positive environment in this way, K-12 leaders set the optimum conditions for learning and create an atmosphere in which students can achieve their best results.

Impact on teaching staff

Just as K-12 leaders inspire their students to achieve the best they can, they also inspire teaching staff to reach ever higher in their professional goals, for the benefit of their students and their own development. Many K-12 leaders will have enrolled in further education themselves to learn the skills and expertise needed to fulfill their position of responsibility.

This means that they will understand the value of continuing professional development and lifelong learning and therefore support staff to participate in a range of learning opportunities. In this way, they act as role models to their teachers, supporting and encouraging them to increase their knowledge and empathizing with them when they meet challenges.

A proactive K-12 leader will seek out learning opportunities for their staff, in the form of workshops, team building sessions, conferences and courses. They will also support constructive reflection and will have an ‘open door’ policy for teachers wishing to talk through challenges, ideas or opportunities.

An engaged and insightful K-12 leader will also recognize that the wellbeing of their teachers is crucial to their school’s success. A study that looked at teachers’ wellbeing identified leadership practices that had a positive impact on it. These practices included making teachers feel valued, supporting them to make autonomous decisions and enabling their professional development.

The study also revealed that leaders’ skills — such as building relationships and demonstrating emotional intelligence — also had a positive impact on teachers’ wellbeing. It concluded that when school leadership teams prioritize their teachers’ wellbeing, this naturally leads to better quality teaching and more success for students.

Moreover, when K-12 leaders support teacher wellbeing, this in turn bolsters student wellbeing programs. This helps schools achieve both their pastoral and educational goals, creating an atmosphere where sharing, learning and supporting one another are encouraged.

Impact on the community

Effective K-12 leaders have the insight to view their students holistically. Instead of focusing simply on students’ academic performance, they will have an awareness of their home and community lives, which in turn impacts on how they fare at school.

They champion initiatives which partners with local schools to support students and their families with vital resources and educational opportunities. Practical measures include providing weekend food bags for families and warm coats for children in winter. Meanwhile, partnerships with local universities see tutors providing one-to-one support to students.

Under the scheme, schools also offer space for community meetings and host after-school clubs. The guiding principle is that schools are part of the community and vice versa. In this way, K-12 leaders see their schools as more than just a seat of learning. They understand their value at the heart of the community, providing a host of wraparound services to enhance every part of their students’ lives and foster an atmosphere that supports learning.

An impactful K-12 leader will also encourage initiatives that bring their students and communities together. Activities that can promote these partnerships include appointing a member of staff in a community liaison role so that they may coordinate a program of events to nurture collaboration between school and community.

K-12 leaders may also invite community leaders and local business and service operators to their school to discuss mutual goals. They will make community members feel welcome and able to approach the school any time to discuss issues that affect them.

Effective K-12 leaders will also instill in their students a sense of responsibility to the school and wider community, encouraging positive relationships between the two. A K-12 leader who envisions a mutually beneficial relationship between community and school ensures that students develop a sense of civic pride, which continues long after they have left the educational system.

How to prepare for K-12 leadership

As we’ve seen, K-12 leaders fulfil responsible roles within their schools, colleges and communities. If this is a position that one aspires to, know that there is an educational pathway that can help with reaching this destination.

Those who already have a master’s degree and are committed to lifelong learning can add to their skills by studying for a Doctor of Education in Leadership. A Doctor of Education degree (also known as an EdD) is a terminal degree in the field of education and is indeed the highest level of degree one can attain.

Once students graduate, they may opt for a career in K-12 leadership, although they won’t be restricted to this field. They can also use their EdD in leadership roles in a variety of other areas, including the public sector, non-profit organizations and business.

Students concerned about finding the time to travel to campus to study may wish to consider an online learning program. The Online Doctorate of Education in Leadership (EdD: Leadership) offered by Spalding University offers a flexible route to EdD careers.

Students may study one course at a time, with coursework completed online so they do not need to worry about traveling to another site. This flexible way of learning also means that they can continue working while they complete their degree, fitting study in around existing commitments.

Students typically take two years from their first class to graduation, which means they will be prepared to apply for K-12 leadership roles within a relatively short timeframe. This can accelerate their dream of positively impacting students, teachers and their community through their role as K-12 leaders.

Take the first step toward inspirational leadership

Visionary and proactive leaders in education are a very much needed resource. Not only does their positive impact mean better educational outcomes for students, it also leads to a host of other benefits, including higher retention rates for staff and enhanced community relationships.

With the inspiration offered by this article and understanding of what K-12 leaders can achieve, why not investigate what an EdD program, such as the Online Doctorate of Education in Leadership by Spalding University, could offer? It is a flexible way to work toward a goal of providing inspirational leadership in schools, and positively impacting the wider community. Take the first step toward a rewarding and meaningful career by requesting more details today.

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