Teachers know how to be leaders, says Marilou Ryder, associate professor in Brandman University’s School of Education. What they might not know is how to use the leadership skills perfected in the classroom to take their careers to the next level.
That’s where mentors – mentors such as Ryder, herself – make a difference. “Principals and administrators need to go out and mentor the people they see who have leadership potential. Not many people wake up saying ‘I want to be a superintendent of schools.’ Mentors have to go out and say, ‘you’ve got the potential, have you thought about it?’”
Mentorship, purpose and making the most of your ability are themes that run through “Rules of the Game,” Ryder’s book on how to win a job in educational leadership. They’ll also be themes for Ryder’s series of workshops sponsored by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), including one at Brandman’s Irvine campus on April 22. (See box for other locations and dates).
In her daylong presentation, Ryder will both present information and then put workshop participants to work examining their own careers, writing about their accomplishments and practicing interviewing skills.
The second edition of “Rules of the Game” was released in October. It expands on the book’s original themes with additional information about interview strategies, trends in education such as Common Core standards and a new section on professional branding, or as Ryder writes, what used to be called reputation.
“When your reputation is a good one, it includes marketable distinctions like positive characteristics and achievements. It’s a way to stand out from the teeming masses of competition for the best jobs,” she writes, in the book.
“Are you ethical? Are you trustworthy? Do you know who you are? A professional brand can sustain you over many years,” says Ryder. “Going into administration can be lonely. If you’re doing a good job and it’s the right decision for kids, not everybody is going to be happy. Not everybody is going to like you. I tell them, you have to have the heart of an angel and the skin of a rhino.”
Ryder wrote the book, which is specifically geared toward careers in educational leadership, because the information didn’t exist when she was working her way up the career ladder, which included transitions from teaching to being an assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent and the superintendent of ever larger districts. She includes both her personal experience and that of colleagues to help job-seeking readers realize they’re not alone in having to deal with rejection.
It can take multiple attempts to move up the career ladder before landing a new job, she warns readers. “It takes persevering. You can spend a month of your life preparing and still lose out,” she says.
The book is also part of what she considers her avocation – helping others get ahead in their careers. As the testimonials in the book show, she can add that to her own list of accomplishments.
Brandman University partners with ACSA to provide scholarships and educational opportunities to ACSA members. Although Ryder’s workshop is not part of that partnership, it’s an example of how the university and organization work together to provide continuing education.