Leading Through Instructional Practices

Chad OstrowskiBlog, Connect Better, Differentiate Better, Engage Better, Innovate Better, Lead Better


  • While educators with formal leadership roles are often seen as the leaders, teachers who lead through instructional practices they initiate themselves have the most impact.
  • Innovation in the classroom leads to change and a model of success in your classroom that others take notice of.
  • Proudly share your successes and failures with others through discussions to affect change.
  • We need to speak up and offer solutions, address potential pitfalls, and drive modification of the plan to meet the needs of students.

Oftentimes when we think about leadership in education, we think of administrators, principals, coordinators, directors, or superintendents. However, we can challenge this notion and make the argument that it is the teacher who has the most impact and power in the work and institution.

Of course, it is usually traditional leadership that drives the larger vision. But it is teachers who define what that vision looks like when executed and determine if that vision is successful or falls flat. Based on my experience working with schools and districts across the country, I have also commonly seen teachers lead through instructional practices they themselves initiate to meet the needs of their students. This is where true leadership and change can occur. There are multiple ways we can impact larger change and lead from our classrooms.

1. Leading Through Instructional Practices: Innovation leads to change.

Working with teachers across the country, I am continually reminded of the power of individual educators and their passion. In fact, many times when a larger initiative or strategic plan is put into place, it was started from a single or small group of educators making a change.

Whether it’s a grade level team trying to make their grading better, implementing mastery learning, or even starting to collaborate on PBLs, when these things work and impact kids, people notice. When you innovate in your classroom, you are creating a model for success that can potentially be replicated and expanded to help others around you also increase their success. Without individual teacher leadership, this cannot occur.

There are multiple ways we can impact larger change and lead from our classrooms. Click To Tweet

2. Leading Through Instructional Practices: Proudly share your successes…and failures.

When I first started teaching, I remember a conversation I had with a veteran educator who told me to “blend in” and just “make it through” my first couple of years. The motivation for this comment was well-intentioned but it bothered me as a passionate new teacher with more ideas than I knew what to do with.

I didn’t take this advice but instead tried to innovate and improve my instruction at every chance I got. I shared my ideas in meetings, led training on new concepts I had tried, and even discussed my failures. Innovation and improvement were a key component of my professional mission as an educator.

I took on leadership roles that were offered to provide a larger platform and network to share. When we have great ideas (or ones that don’t go so well), we need to have these conversations and share with one another. Until we open these discussions in our schools, districts, and within our educational networks, it’s hard to impart any larger change.

Almost every single solution in education exists somewhere in a school, grade level, or classroom. It is these innovations that drive change on a larger scale. But without discussion, networking, or sharing our successes and failures, the changes we make remain only in the four walls of our classroom.

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3. Leading Through Instructional Practices: Speak up.

When you have ideas as a teacher, SPEAK UP. Oftentimes the logistics of plans or initiatives can not take into account daily logistics. As an educator on the front lines, we need to speak up and offer solutions, address potential pitfalls, as well as drive modification of the plan to meet the needs of students.

One caveat of this notion is that when we speak up or disagree, we should be productive, solution-oriented, as well as student-centered in our response. Feedback will always be taken better when we offer a solution. For example, if you notice that a new idea from building or district leadership may not work the way they intend, just voicing the concern may come across as “complaining” whether it is valid or not. However, if you pair a concern with a solution, this changes the narrative.

As educators, we are on the front lines, doing the work and facilitating changes and innovation. This provides us the ability to lead from the “bottom up” and the “classroom out” to drive change that can help us reach our goal which is always and forever to support the needs of the students we love.

About Chad Ostrowski

Chad Ostrowski is the co-founder of the Teach Better Team, and creator of The Grid Method. He is also a co-author of the Teach Better book. But Chad is a middle school science teacher at heart. He now travels the country sharing his story, working with teachers, schools, and districts to help them to reach more students. Chad is also a member of the Teach Better Speakers Network.