Stan Harward recommends leadership strategies for administrators who desire to improve the literacy programs of their schools.
Throughout his career in education, Stan Harward has made literacy a priority. Harward, who is currently in his sixth year as chair of the Department of Elementary Education at Utah Valley University, began his career as a classroom teacher. Because of his passion for literacy, he became the director of K–12 Literacy for the Alpine School District, arranging regular literacy training for his district’s educators. He also supported district principals and teachers through a team of literacy specialists who helped to realize the district’s literacy goals. Harward’s practices at the district level were informed by his years as principal at Central Elementary and Cherry Hill Elementary.
Harward shares his passion for literacy through teaching literature and leadership courses to preservice teachers at UVU. Always anxious to share literacy strategies with other educators, he advises administrators who want to make literacy a priority at their schools to seek professional development. As a McKay School alumnus, Harward has participated in SEEL research at the MSE and eventually returned to take education classes at BYU as he became more interested in literacy. “What I learned from grad courses and being involved in literacy helped me as a principal,” Harward says, although he stresses that going back to school is one of many methods to become involved in literacy.
|“If you think of leadership in terms of a relationship between leader and follower, the follower really decides who the leader is, and the leader reciprocates by doing things in the organization’s best interest.”|
Encouraging administrators to use their faculty as resources, Harward advises, “There are very few teachers who don’t realize that literacy is critical; understand that your faculty are really good at what they do.” He recommends that administrators tap into ideas from their team. However, he reminds them that teachers also need the support of administration to more effectively teach literacy, and they are more likely to welcome help that comes from the standpoint of knowledge. “Having enough expertise helps teachers to accept your involvement.”
Harward reminds administrators, “Literacy isn’t a one-time shot.” Building trust between staff and administration, as well as between staff members, is critical to “leading the way to literacy,” but it takes time and good communication. Leaders “can’t shove things down people’s throats.” Rather he advises them to strive for a professional teaching environment that encourages the exchange and acceptance of new ideas. While “the relationship between the leader and the employee can be good or bad, if it’s an exceptionally good relationship, a lot of great things can happen.”
Harward further elaborates:
- Encourage teachers themselves to become involved with literacy. Help teachers understand that they don’t need to be total experts in all grade levels, but that developing an interest in literacy is key to teaching reading well.
- Every school has key “players” or staff members who can really influence others. Teachers generally trust other teachers. Know your staff and make sure you connect with its “key players” when you implement school-wide initiatives. For example, if you want to do more with writing, implement a school-wide initiative to write every day and provide support to help make that happen. Be sure to reach out to leaders and innovators on your staff who have the trust of other staff members and are able to teach them.
- Administrators must make professional development available to teachers. Anything administrators can do to give their team opportunities to learn more about literacy will help achieve literacy goals.
Harward explains to administrators, “If you think of leadership in terms of a relationship between leader and follower, the follower really decides who the leader is, and the leader reciprocates by doing things in the organization’s best interest.” As principals make literacy a larger part of their leadership role, keeping broader principles of leadership in mind will help to guide their involvement. “Leadership is not just a status. Care about those you lead” as you use your administrative position to further the effective teaching of literacy at your school.