Leading in Learning

We Have All Been There

Molly walked into the classroom. It was her first day on the job. She had completed her Bachelor’s degree a few years ago and worked as a project manager for regional business that had an office in her town. She decided to return to school and pursue her Master’s degree in Computer Science to leverage her credentials to hopefully transition to higher positions in the company.

After completing her degree, she received a small increase in salary due to her achievement in advancing herself educationally. A few weeks later, she learned her company was closing the office that was employing her.

She was given an option to move to another location, which was across the nation, but she did not want to move at the time. She had just gotten married, and her and her husband had just bought a home. She loved her town, so she declined the move, and thus, left her position.

Today she began her new position working at the community college in her town as a Computer Science instructor. She walked up and down the aisles of the empty classroom. Her heart began to beat a little quicker as she noticed the clock. Her first class began in thirty minutes. She had the thought to just leave and go home, but she quickly returned to reality. She had chosen not to move. She had chosen to work at this college. And, she had chosen to teach students the very items she used to actually do for a company.

Molly pulled the syllabus out of her briefcase and began reviewing the course objectives. She knew each and every area she had to teach to her students over the course of the fifteen week semester. She took and deep breath, got some water, and she began welcoming students as they entered the classroom.

The first class was somewhat difficult as her nervousness made her voice tremble slightly as she spoke. She just knew the students were staring her down and calculating her knowledge and ability to teach them. But, the first class went by fairly quickly as she just introduced herself, reviewed the syllabus, and made the first reading assignment. Victory! Or, so she thought.

The next three weeks were difficult for Molly. Class was not as structured as her first day had been. Actually, class was not structured at all, unless she intentionally made it structured. She was teaching the course objectives, one by one, and the students seemed to be doing fine. But, the course felt scattered and unorganized for her. And, being a former project manager, she was not used to any level of chaos, especially with items she led. She tried to figure out what the issue was, but she could not pinpoint it. If only she could return to her job as Project Manager, she would know what to do. She would meet with her staff, outline expectations, encourage them to persevere towards those expectations, and then lead them along the way. But, this wasn’t Project Management. This was education, and she had never felt so out of place.

Molly made an appointment with her supervisor, Dr. Kalian, the chair of the Computer Science department. She expressed her concerns to him, and she even shared her thought about how she would have handled this if she was back on her former job.

When Molly had finished speaking, Dr. Kalian leaned back in his chair and smiled. He said, “I think you are right where you need to be. As a matter of fact, you know exactly what to do.” Molly looked puzzled, so he continued. “You are not a Project Manager here at this college. You are a Computer Science instructor.

But, the principles never change.

  1. Do not call a meeting with your staff. Instead, address your students during your next class.
  2. Do not outline expectations. Instead, share with your class the course objectives and describe what each one of them means.
  3. Do not encourage your employees. Instead, challenge your students to read, comprehend, study, and practice the concepts, so they learn each of the objectives.
  4. And, don’t lead them like a boss would. Instead, believe in them, guide them, and keep them focused. Plan a path to identify, teach, practice, assess, and evaluate your students for each course objective.
  5. Consider the course as a project. And, use the very skills you know fluently from your past job to change your student’s lives now through the attainment of education in your classes.

Molly felt as if she had been given a challenge that made sense and matched herself as a person. She left Dr. Kalian’s office refocused and revitalized. The next time class met, Molly implemented his advice, and over the next few weeks, she began to see her students excel at their learning. And, her class came to order.

Leadership is a Core Element

Whether in business, government, healthcare, nonprofits, and even education. In most situations in life, if we apply the principles of leadership, we will find ourselves capable to accomplishing great things. And, we have structure and sanity along the way, which are priceless!

The following video from TEDx Ghent shows a wonderful presentation from Pierre Pirard, a former leader turned educator.

Pierre Pirard emphasizes that the four basic elements of both business and education are to:


As I listened to this speech, I did see a correlation with Pirard and my teaching philosophy. Yes, I strive to believe in my students, encourage them, and motivate them.

I do work to have a vision and goals in each class, but I do this in a very specific manner. I work to show the relevance in the course and how it will help each student in their future career. This is critical for me, as I teach general education courses nearly each semester.

I have taught nearly every English course offered, as well as Public Speaking, Humanities, and even some computer courses. In these classes, students often feel they just have to survive the course to progress to their next semester without realizing how what they learn now will help them to be successful in their upcoming courses, as well as their actual career.

However, when I teach occupationally-specific courses, like the Public Relations courses, students tend to correlate their success in those classes with their futures. So, I believe the types of classes you teach can certainly impact how you approach the instructional methods of each course.

Now, I would love to hear from you.

How do these concepts align to how you handle your classes? Is this the perspective you have for your students? I would love to learn what you do, as I am always seeking ideas and advice on improving upon what I do!

Please comment below.



Brent S. Mayes