Education Opinion

Celebrating Teachers as Leaders

By Learning Forward — May 03, 2011 2 min read
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This week we honor teachers for their contributions to the success of our society. As we recognize their skills and expertise, I call upon all teachers to step up and exercise their leadership potential to not only transform their classrooms, but their schools and school systems as well. The challenges we face in schools require the actions of leaders.

I recognize that some teachers fail to see themselves as leaders. As an example I share the story of my own daughter, a 3rd-grade teacher. With the many ways she has tried to influence her school, I always assumed she considered herself a teacher leader. It never occurred to me she didn’t see herself this way until I received an email from her one day. She forwarded a correspondence between her and her principal, when she was asked to work with teachers in another grade level on math curriculum planning. At the bottom of the memo she wrote, “Hee-hee -- I’m a teacher leader.” She had not recognized all the actions she had taken to advance her professional learning community as leadership until she was asked to specifically take a leadership role by her principal.

Teachers do not need formal requests to practice leadership. In my daughter’s case, her efforts to introduce PLCs to her colleagues was an act of leadership.

Today I call upon all teachers to exercise and recognize their own leadership capacity. Expand your role in moving schools forward. How are you are a leader? Consider these ways that you push for the results you want for your students. If you aren’t doing these already, think about your next steps.

  • Do you have a vision for your classroom and a plan for how you will ensure all students are successful?
  • Do you contribute to your school’s vision and take steps within your power? Do you advocate for the vision?
  • Do you volunteer to serve or chair committees that focus on issues related to powerful learning for adults and students?
  • Do you take responsibility for your own growth?
  • Do you seek feedback and support to help you continuously improve?
  • Do you belong to professional organizations or communities that support learning for adults and students?
  • Do you read professional journals, blogs, or web sites to strengthen your classroom and your school?
  • Do you network with colleagues across and down the hall, across your district, state, nation, and world to expand your perspectives and enrich your profession?
  • Do you advocate on behalf of your school and profession to parents and community leaders and with friends in social settings?
  • Do you demonstrate pride in your profession and can you speak particularly about why you chose it and how you make a difference each day?

If you answered yes to even one of these actions, you are demonstrating leadership and taking the actions we need for schools.

Few schools are successful with one leader. The most effective schools are places where everyone shares responsibility for the success of all students. I hope you don’t wait to be invited to a leadership role. Instead, I hope you say to yourself today, “I am a teacher, I am a leader, and the future of my schools and my students depends on my leadership.” With that commitment, we can accomplish great things together.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward

The opinions expressed in Learning Forward’s PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.