Perhaps it was last week’s election or the opportunity to have a deep conversation with a former education governor. Even more, it may have been the opportunity to hear some amazing and inspiring teachers speak in the last several days. Whatever the reason, it motivated me to send a message to all teacher leaders.
First, let me say that I believe all teachers are leaders. What distinguishes one teacher leader from another is the reach of his or her leadership. Here are seven responsibilities teacher leaders who have the broadest impact assume without anyone suggesting they take them on. Let me know where you agree or differ and what I forgot to include on the list. I look forward to a rich dialogue.
1. Model lifelong learning. Teacher leaders recognize the importance of deep content and pedagogical expertise. They never stop learning. They also agree they want students to become lifelong learners. One way for students to recognize the value of lifelong learning is to see their teachers as lifelong learners and to hear their teachers talk about its influence on them.
2. Engage in effective collaborative learning. Teacher leaders are experts in their craft. They are able to engage in collaborative planning, give feedback, offer perspectives, and advocate for changes because they understand what is required for excellence in teaching to occur on a daily basis.
3. Assume collective responsibility for student success. Teacher leaders accept responsibility for the success of their students. Teacher leaders also promote collective responsibility for the students served by the other members of their team. To achieve this, they commit to work together through a cycle of inquiry that enables them to clarify students’ learning needs and their learning agenda, implement new strategies across the team, assess the impact on students, and refine their plans until all students are experiencing success.
4. Support their newer colleagues. Teacher leaders recognize the challenges newer teachers face and don’t wait for invitations to welcome them and acknowledge the importance of the job these new colleagues have accepted. Teacher leaders remember their first few years on the job and what was most helpful to them and are ready to offer their colleagues similar support.
5. Contribute to the schoolwide improvement agenda. Teacher leaders extend their impact beyond their team to the entire school. They understand that success in one grade or subject can be erased by limited success in another grade. As a result, teacher leaders feel a responsibility to help build a culture of continuous improvement, trust, and respect across the entire school. They serve on school improvement, curriculum, instruction, leadership, or other important leadership teams.
6. Impact system performance. Teacher leaders step up and volunteer to serve on district committees as well. When they have the opportunity to work in a great school, they feel a commitment to making sure all teachers and students across the system have the same. By serving on district planning, professional development, professional association, curriculum, and other committees, they impact what happens across the school system for all teachers and their students.
7. Build relationships with policymakers. Teacher leaders are in the best position to impact the decisions of policymakers. They have the authentic experience and insights to provide practical examples to people who make decisions that affect them and their profession. They are among the most trusted members of the community. Teacher leaders get involved in the political process and build relationships with candidates and those elected to govern because they know investing early positions them for influence later.
Not all teacher leaders stop here. I hope you will share with me other steps teacher leaders take every day to ensure excellent teaching and learning every day.
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.