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Stepping From a Classroom Teacher to a School Teacher

By Gavin Kinch
Stepping From a Classroom Teacher to a School Teacher

Recently, I was reflecting on what makes a great school teacher. Throughout my years in education, I have hired many teachers. One of the things I enjoy most is hiring someone who is entering teaching for the very first time. They are keen to enter the classroom and “test” their abilities without being under the supervision of another teacher in the classroom. For many, it has taken a long time to get to that point, and they are excited and eager to get started.

In supporting these teachers, I advise them that their responsibility and focus for the first couple of years in teaching is to become the best “classroom” teacher they can be. By this I mean that as an early career stage teacher, their initial focus should be on developing their own classroom proficiency under the guidance of others. They should be looking to find the style and approach that works for them and their students and be fully invested in honing who they are as a teacher, how they relate to students, and the values that they want to define for themselves and their career. Their concern should be how they function within their classroom and in developing their teaching skills and pedagogy. My advice to early career stage teachers is that once they have consolidated their classroom skills, the next healthy step in their development is to move from being a “classroom” teacher to becoming a “school” teacher.

A “school” teacher is different from a “classroom” teacher in that a “school” teacher expands their scope of interest to be more than just what is happening within their classroom. The scope should increase to consider ways in which they can contribute more broadly to the school. Examples of this may include, developing curriculum that will be used across the faculty, joining school committees, helping with pastoral issues, helping to develop school policies, or taking on “acting” roles when leaders are absent. Adding a “school” focus, in addition to a “classroom” focus, is a critical and healthy step in a teacher’s development, for both them and the school.

Recently, I have been considering how this concept is also applicable for school Principals and senior leaders. When leaders step into senior roles for the first time their focus should be on developing the new set of skills that are required for their level of responsibility. Their focus and investment should be on in ensuring that they are meeting the requirements of the job and the school they are leading. However, at some point, it is healthy in a school leader’s development to look beyond the school fence and consider how they can contribute more broadly to the field of education as a whole. This could include taking on sector wide roles, creating or joining cross-school working groups, joining educational boards, mentoring others, or providing insights, research, or expertise on relevant issues.

Wherever you are in your career, take time to reflect and consider whether this is a season to consolidate your current position or to take the next step; lift your eyes outside of your immediate world and expand your sphere of contribution.


Gavin Kinch is the Principal of ACS (International) in Singapore and is a member of the International Baccalaureate Heads Council.

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