As an English literature major in college, I had the privilege of meeting and working with some phenomenal poets. Within my writing workshops, these authors assigned very specific prompts with all sorts of restrictions.  I remember being tasked with writing a sestina and given the end words and theme to use, based on random class banter.  I dragged my feet back to my dorm that afternoon, certain of the impossibility of crafting an effective poem from all of the restrictions placed upon my creativity.

Twenty-five years later, that poem remains one of my best. I learned from these master writers that creativity flourishes when constrained.  Necessity is the mother of invention, is it not? When the constraints are a natural product of our reality (kids are hungry, homeless, lonely, unsafe) or because we know what best practices are (we must collect and analyze quality data, continue to read and study our art, be held accountable for performing) then they result in the type of teaching that is beautifully crafted for the exact students which we teach.  Our teaching becomes our best.

And yet, because teaching is an art, best performed by talented, creative, dedicated practitioners, canned curriculum and stiff teaching protocols are the opposite of the kinds of restrictions that lead to true excellence in education.  We want teachers to feel empowered to think outside the box and try new things, so we must encourage teachers to speak up, take risks, and get creative.  Teachers must be provided with a sense of decision-making autonomy.  

Still, all artists are constrained by the natural restrictions of their medium.  All artists benefit by allowing themselves to be honed and shaped by the wisdom of the giants who came before and by mastering the techniques that yield the best results.  While autonomy for teachers is key to a positive change culture, autonomy without accountability is doomed to fail. 

Just like the powerful poets I learned from in college, effective educational leaders empower their  teachers by providing choice and voice within a system that prioritizes the needs of the learners and requires evidence-based practice. Educational guru, John Hattie, calls these leaders “high-impact” (2015, p. 39). Effective educational leaders engage and empower all stakeholders (teachers, parents, students, support staff) to affect positive change outcomes in the learning environment through encouragement and regulation.  So, dear administrators, give me more research-based restrictions; help me to grow into the master teacher I long to be. 


Hattie, John. (2015, February, pp. 36-40). Educational Leadership, v72 n5.


Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy