Steve McManus, a veteran principal at the private Friends School of Baltimore, has taught one class every semester during his entire tenure. For principals and other school leaders, the benefits of teaching can transcend those experienced by even the most successful classroom teachers, according to a report in Education Week.

As McManus says, he actually thinks of teaching as professional development.

And with the Omicron variant in full swing and a shortage of substitutes sending superintendents and other school leaders into classrooms, now’s a good time to look at the benefits of such experiences.

To start, not only does teaching provide you with an opportunity to connect with students, it also helps you build trusting and empathetic relationships with your district’s teaching staff as you experience classroom challenges and rewards that are similar to their own. And you can also apply what you observe in the classroom to your broader leadership decisions.

Effective leaders often point to trust as being central to their success. Leaders who make teaching a habit often say that it’s a concrete way to garner trust from their teaching staff colleagues. “They see me in the classroom struggling with the same challenges,” McManus said. “They know that I’m going to be doing whatever the school is asking all teachers to do.”

Another benefit? Spending time in the classroom can also give you a firsthand sense of not only the challenges your teachers face, but also those affecting students, such as increasing levels of mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.