Supporting Teacher Leaders - Steve Barkley

Supporting Teacher Leaders

The role of teacher leaders is an important consideration as school leadership teams work to reach improvement plan goals. How do principals and instructional coaches encourage and support the growth of teacher leaders?

In a white paper from Discovery Education titled, TEACHER LEADERS:The (Not So) Secret Catalyst for Change,  I found some indicators that identify how teacher leaders demonstrate behaviors that extend beyond being an effective teacher:

While effective teachers continually work to improve their practice, teacher leaders do so while also focusing on the growth of their colleagues.

Effective teachers maintain professional relationships and collaborate with colleagues. Teacher leaders in addition work to create environments of collaboration where colleagues are comfortable questioning and challenging each other and initiating new ideas.

Effective teachers welcome feedback from supervisors and colleagues. Teacher leaders seek out opportunities for that continuous feedback.nov-6-box

The National Standards for Teacher Leadership identify these roles for teacher leaders:

Domain I: Fostering a collaborative culture to support educator development and student learning

Domain II: Accessing and using research to improve practice and student learning

Domain III: Promoting professional learning for continuous improvement

Domain IV: Facilitating improvements in instruction and student learning

Domain V: Promoting the use of assessments and data for school and district improvement

Domain VI: Improving outreach and collaboration with families and community

Domain VII:  Advocating for student learning and the profession

Learn to Lead - Chalkboard

This list reinforces for me the important role of teacher leaders in maximizing the effectiveness of professional learning communities. Developing teacher leaders should be a purposeful role for school leadership teams. District leaders should also be examining how they support teacher leadership development.

The Discovery White Paper highlights important ways for administrators to support teacher leader development:

#1 Provide Space to Lead –Involve teacher leaders in designing and implementing professional development as they consistently seek improvement of their craft and want others to do the same.

#2 Encourage Risk Taking – Encourage teacher leaders to open the doors of their classrooms to colleagues when they are taking instructional risks with new practices. Teacher leader risk taking helps to form a culture in which staff support each other by celebrating successes and embracing failures.

#3 Model Vulnerability -School leaders who model their own vulnerability encourage teacher leaders to be comfortable admitting what they don’t know to their peers which builds confidence in sharing what they do know. This creates a school culture in which vulnerability is accepted and encouraged.

#4 Champion Collective Leadership– Effective principals encourage others to join in the decision-making process in their schools. This power sharing practice does not mean a principal loses clout. “Influence in schools is not a fixed sum or a zero-sum game.”

( Effective Principals Embrace Collective Leadership)

I had the opportunity recently to work with a teacher leader. She had been the contact in planning my consulting day at her school. She organized a day to implement a learning rounds activity that would introduce teachers to the experience of visiting each other’s classrooms and debriefing their observations of student learning behaviors. She had completed a substantial amount of reading and learning about the topic. She created a schedule for the activity and worked with administrators to arrange coverage for participating teachers. She identified teachers interested in visiting the classrooms and those volunteering to have their classrooms observed (a practice new to this school’s culture).

As a teacher leader, she took part throughout the day and organized a full staff session at the end of the day where I presented some background information and the participating teachers shared their learning from the experience and their enthusiasm to repeat the activity. The teacher leader had the date set for a repeat of this experience and began to gather staff interest in being involved.

I noted that the principal arranged coverage for the teacher leader’s classroom for the day and took part in the day’s events from the sidelines…. supporting teacher leadership.

How is your school leadership team building teacher leadership opportunities?

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