Writing an Educational Leadership Philosophy Statement
As you may recall from EC’s last newsletter, visualizing the three primary components of your written application (the resume, personal statement, and cover letter) as a Venn diagram, with each represented by a circle overlapping with the other two is a useful image to keep in mind. The intersection of all three circles is where the school knows that you have a clear understanding of their mission and some of the challenges they are facing in the coming years, how you can help them effectively address those challenges, and why schools and education matter to you. Your personal statement, or what is better known as your “educational leadership philosophy statement” informs this last item: why schools and education matter to you.
Your educational leadership philosophy statement invites the reader to learn about you in a more personal way in that it shares with readers how and why you came to work in schools. This is your chance to illuminate your ideas and values as they relate to education. It’s a creative opportunity, in contrast to the chronological listing of cold, hard facts in your resume, or the specific evidence for why you are someone the school needs right now that you presented in your cover letter. Your educational leadership philosophy statement is the window through which a reader gets to first view the way you think about schools and education, to first learn about life experiences that have influenced your own education and/or leadership journey, and to first see how you write.
As with all writing, strong opening paragraphs engage the audience, making them want to read more and get to know you better. For that reason, make sure whoever is proofing your statement gives you feedback on how they felt when they first started reading it. Was their interest piqued or did they keep reading because you are a friend and they said they would look it over for you? And keep in mind that, like a good essay, at the end, your statement should bring back some of the points you make in the introduction. Tie it all together.
Unless a specific length is required as in, “Please share a one-page statement of your educational philosophy and leadership practice,” the general rule of thumb is one-page at a minimum and two-pages maximum. But, if you have a lot to say and your writing is really good, feel free to go longer. Just be careful not to get repetitive or to let the essay lose focus. Shorter than a page would be unusual but I’ve seen it done with decent success.
While humor is good if that’s within your writing and speaking style, you should steer clear of sarcasm and jokes. They won’t translate well. You want to sound like yourself, and if you have a sense of humor, feel free to show it; if not, don’t pretend you do.
“I think there are probably as many opinions out there about educational leadership philosophy statements as there are search consultants. I tend to be less prescriptive, in part because I feel that one can learn a lot about a candidate by their decisions about what to include and how to write.”
– Co-managing partner Nat Conard
When pressed for more specific guidance he shared, “I tend to prefer statements with a little humor, a light at best dose of jargon, at least a nod to educational theory or research (mostly to signal that you are versed in such things), a connection to personal experience (what has shaped this person), and a narrative flow.”
Not all senior administrator candidates such as CFO’s, Directors of Development, and Directors of Annual Funds need to have an educational philosophy. But, leadership skill in their areas of expertise is an important quality to explain. If you are not sure you should have an educational philosophy, talk it through with your search consultant. They will know what makes the most sense for your situation.
Lastly, don’t be fooled by the many different ways schools, search committees, candidates, and even search consultants refer to this document. From “personal statement” to “statement of leadership philosophy,” at the end of the day you are writing a statement of educational leadership philosophy if you are applying for a senior administrator position that has students as part or all of its focus. Of course, when in doubt, ask the search consultant which parts of the Venn diagram you need.
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