Teacher Leadership. The Best Hope for Sustaining School Change. Teacher Leadership.
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The Best Hope for Sustaining School Change
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.
“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
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.”
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.
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.
What does teacher leadership look like?
Typically it is demonstrated in one of three ways:
A few examples of schoolwide policies & programs leadership:
A few examples of teaching and learning leadership:
A few examples of communication and community leadership
What skills are required of teacher leaders?
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…”
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.
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.
The role of an administrator is to support, promote, & honor the work of teachers by:
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.
Possible obstacles to 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.