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Teacher Leadership. The Best Hope for Sustaining School Change. Teacher Leadership.

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Teacher Leadership

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Teacher Leadership

The Best Hope for Sustaining School Change


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Teacher Leadership

Teacher Leadership is the critical element in any successful professional learning community. By opening their classroom practices to their peers, teacher leaders help to de-privatize teaching – an indispensable first step in the process of building a PLC.


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Teacher Leadership

“When given opportunities to lead, teachers can influence school reform efforts. Waking this sleeping giant of teacher leadership has unlimited potential in making a real difference in the pace and depth of school change.”

Katzenmeyer and Moller, Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Helping Teachers Develop as Leaders, 2001


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Teacher Leadership

What is teacher leadership?

Charlotte Danielson defines it as:

“Skills demonstrated by teachers who continue to teach but who influence practices of other teachers and activities in other classrooms.”


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Teacher Leadership

Teacher Leadership does not have to be a stepping stone to administration. In fact, many veteran teachers are looking for ways to “scratch the leadership itch” without leaving the classroom.


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Teacher Leadership

Why does teacher leadership offer the promise of sustained change?

The typical tenure for a principal is 3 to 5 years.

On the other hand, it is not uncommon for a teacher to work in the same building for 20 to 30 years.

That is why changes initiated by teachers often last longer than changes initiated by principals.


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Teacher Leadership

What does teacher leadership look like?

Typically it is demonstrated in one of three ways:

  • Schoolwide policies and programs

  • Teaching and learning

  • Communications and community relations


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Teacher Leadership

A few examples of schoolwide policies & programs leadership:

  • Serving on a schoolwide council

  • Creating schoolwide policies for student conduct, attendance, grading, homework, etc

  • Initiating and leading co-curricular activities

  • Encouraging student volunteerism

  • Mentoring and coaching new teachers

  • Arranging social programs for faculty and staff

  • Hiring new staff

  • Organizing a cross-age tutoring program

  • Leading professional development activities by either making a presentation or sharing practice


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Teacher Leadership

A few examples of teaching and learning leadership:

  • Looking at student work with fellow teachers

  • Collecting an analyzing data with fellow teachers

  • Developing clear and unambiguous expectations of student performance in collaboration with fellow teachers

  • Developing common tasks with fellow teachers

  • Developing common rubrics with fellow teachers

  • Building common assessments with fellow teachers

  • Developing an interdisciplinary unit with a peer

  • Developing interventions with fellow teachers for students performing below expectations


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Teacher Leadership

A few examples of communication and community leadership

  • Communicating positive information to parents

  • Instituting student-led parent conferences

  • Organizing a parent information night to explain new curricular programming

  • Organizing a parent information night to address student developmental issues

  • Providing parents with information about how to support student learning

  • Provide leadership for collecting information for the school website

  • Initiate a family reading night in the school library

  • Develop a schoolwide process to monitor student progress from grade to grade


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Teacher Leadership

What skills are required of teacher leaders?

  • Using evidence and data in decision-making

  • Recognizing opportunities & taking initiative

  • Mobilizing people around a common cause

  • Marshalling resources & taking action

  • Monitoring progress and making adjustments

  • Sustaining the commitment of others

  • Habits of mind, like optimism, enthusiasm, open-mindedness, confidence, courage, decisiveness, perseverance, creativity, flexibility, etc.


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Teacher Leadership

Dealing with negativity

Expressions of negativity are common in school.

Questioning and challenging comments are healthy, but negativity for its own sake is not!

“We tried that once and it didn’t work.”

“Without additional funding, there is nothing we can do.”

“You can’t make chicken salad…”


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Teacher Leadership

Perhaps the most important contribution that a teacher leader can make to school improvement is to resist the temptation to become negative or cynical. Where negativity and cynicism abound, there is neither energy nor motivation for change.


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Teacher Leadership

Administrative leadership is necessary, but not sufficient, for sustained school improvement.

In that context, the principal’s primary duty may be to empower teachers to display leadership qualities. Which means that principals must be willing to share their power and their authority.


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Teacher Leadership

The role of an administrator is to support, promote, & honor the work of teachers by:

  • Setting the tone (culture) & maintaining the vision

  • Conveying and building confidence in teachers

  • Clarifying ideas and planning an approach

  • Marshalling support from downtown

  • Locating additional resources

  • Demonstrating support to the ranks

  • Presenting innovations to the public


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Teacher Leadership

Administrative leadership and teacher leadership are complementary concepts that ideally work together.

The power of teacher leaders does not come from administrators; it comes from their acceptance by fellow teachers. Thus, teacher leaders do not hold formal leadership roles.


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Teacher Leadership

Possible obstacles to teacher leadership:

  • Contested ground – principal will not share his/her authority.

  • Teacher contracts – often limit teacher hours, duties, and view of job.

  • State requirements – licensure issues can drain time and energy.

  • Assigning formal leadership roles – takes the teacher leader out of the classroom.

  • Confusing board certification with teacher leadership – not mutually exclusive but not the same.


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Teacher Leadership

Andy Hargreaves says that sustainability is not the institutionalization of changed practice but rather the habit of critically examining practice as part of the daily work of a school.


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