This month, we focus on teacher leadership, a professional development movement that is proving to be the most effective way for teachers to learn, grow and improve in their practice.
One of the most important – if not the most important – position on any campus is that of the teacher leader. Teacher leaders create, design and implement new initiatives and projects on campuses, lead teams in improving campus offerings and instruction, work closely with principals on school decisions, and ultimately rally the troops for, or against, new reform efforts.
Here, we offer a great resource for schools trying to foster teacher leadership on their campuses in From the Office and also highlight an example of how teacher leaders are transforming local campuses in From the Field.
"Within every school there is a sleeping giant of teacher leadership that can be a strong catalyst for making changes to improve learning" say Katzenmeyer and Moller in a recent book, Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Helping Teachers Develop as Leaders.
The book serves as a how-to guide on fostering teacher leaders on a campus. Beginning with general descriptions of the various roles that teacher leaders serve and the many definitions of a teacher leader that have accumulated over the last few decades, the book crystallizes the essential functions of any teacher leader into four elements. Teacher leaders:
- Lead within and beyond the classroom;
- Identify with and contribute to a community of teacher learners and leaders;
- Influence others toward improved educational practice; and
- Accept responsibility for achieving the outcomes of their leadership.
Based on these key elements, the authors construct a model of teacher leadership that begins with a diagnostic tool that teachers can use to assess their capacity for leadership, then moves outward to explore how teacher leadership operates most effectively on a campus. The book offers an abundance of learning tools for teacher leaders and principals, including how to deal with peers who are struggling, how to motivate teachers to change, and how to navigate the space between the classroom and the principal’s office.
In short, the text is a great resource for developing effective and sustainable teacher leaders who can drive the work of a campus. The authors conclude that "recognizing that reform requires persistent work compels us to capitalize on the skills, knowledge, and expertise of every teacher who can be agent of change. Ultimately, the schools of the future will look quite different from the schools of today. The evolution of teacher leadership will help to make this a positive difference." In light of this conclusion, the following report from the field highlights the type of evolutionary change that teacher leaders can make.
Ask Josh Silberman, a teacher at Challenge Early College High School in Houston ISD, what he loves most about teaching you’ll get a variety of answers – among them, the chance to lead in the school. Currently, Josh and his colleague Paul Cross are working on a new reform project sponsored by Houston A+ Challenge that partners Challenge with Quest High School in Humble ISD. It’s a natural partnership. Quest, a small school that features a senior exhibition project, is planning to become an early college; and Challenge, a small early college, is looking to make the senior year more meaningful. Furthermore, Challenge has a history of teachers in leadership roles advancing the school’s mission, and Quest has a similar tradition of cultivating leaders from the inside. In fact, Principal Kim Klepcyk was formerly a teacher at Quest.
For A+, the partnership provides an opportunity to examine how schools can learn from each other through replication and demonstration. On February 26, a busload of Quest High School students, faculty, and administrators visited Challenge Early College High School for a day of learning and sharing organized by Silberman and Cross. The two spearheaded an agenda packed with student-led activities and classroom visits. What’s more, while administrators from both campuses worked through district-level details, teacher leaders Ty James and Christopher Phlegar from Quest collaborated with Silberman and Cross to further develop the implementation steps for each campus.
The efforts of teacher leaders are having a significant influence on both campuses. The widespread changes in practice that these two schools are attempting are dependent on the work of campus leadership that extends from and beyond the classroom. When campuses realize how to use and value teachers for the many and varied talents they offer in and beyond a campus, meaningful and creative work such as this occurs.
Are You a Teacher Leader? There’s a place for you. Check out www.teacherleaders.org. It’s full of resources, articles, and news to keep the teacher leader well-informed.
Another Great Resource: Developing Teacher Leaders by Frank Crowther picks up where Katzenmeyer and Moller leave off by providing additional resources for a campus with emerging leadership potential. (Link to Amazon)
Teachers as Leaders in EL: In September 2007, Educational Leadership dedicated an entire issue to the topic of teacher leadership. Among several items worth (re-)reading is “Short on Power, Long on Responsibility,” Richard Ingersoll’s strongly written article on the need for change in authority at the teacher level. You can check out the entire issue here.
An Evening With Dr. John Saphier
The next event in our national visiting faculty series is a March 25 visit from Dr. John Saphier, Founder and President of Research for Better Teaching, Inc. The event, titled "Teaching and Learning with Skillful Leadership," will bring Houston A+ friends and colleagues together to explore what we know, and need to know, about teaching expertise. The event will be held on Thursday, March 25, 2010, from 5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. For further information or to register, click here.
An Evening With Dr. Pedro Noguera
Also coming soon at Houston A+ Challenge is an evening with renowned urban sociologist Dr. Pedro Noguera. This engaging event - which will take place on April 1 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. - will focus on instructional leadership. Participants will explore the characteristics of effective teachers and how to cultivate good teaching, onsite professional development focused on student work, and what we can learn from high preforming schools. For further information or to register, click here.
Spend Seven Minutes with A+ National Speakers
To share our learning with the wider community, Houston A+ Challenge has begun compiling a video library featuring brief interviews with national speakers who have recently spent time with our principal and teacher networks.
Let us know what you think about these video clips:
- Sonia Nieto, Professor Emerita of Language, Literacy, and Culture, School of Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
- Gloria Ladson-Billings, President of the American Educational Research Association and Professor of Urban Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- Anthony Muhammad, Founder of New Frontier 21, on how teachers and school leaders can build real Professional Learning Communities and momentum for student-focused school change.
- Lorraine Monroe, author and founding principal of Harlem's Frederick Douglass Academy, on instructional leadership.