In my previous blog post, I wrote about how school and district leaders must support teachers in developing their capacity as leaders. I am proud to say that the city of Boston has begun such work through its Teacher Leader Certificate program. Unlike most teacher leadership training programs that leave teachers “all dressed up with no place to go,” this program only works with teachers who already hold leadership roles. It seeks to serve the need of a growing population of teachers who have moved into roles they recognize as important but have little or no support to build the skills to be successful.
The program is unique in that the courses have been designed and facilitated primarily by practicing Boston Public School teachers. As such, it not only helps teachers who take courses to build leadership skills, but it importantly provides teachers who design and facilitate our courses with a unique new opportunity for career advancement. It has been developed in partnership with the district, is endorsed by the superintendent, and is aligned with the district’s reform plan, targeting skill building for the teacher leadership roles that will play a critical role in systemic change. As an additional benefit for those who participate, UMASS Boston and Cambridge College also serve as partners so that these courses can be offered for graduate credits. Such credits allow Boston teacher leaders to improve their salaries.
What’s most compelling for me is that working toward my certificate not only benefits my professional learning but is also an asset to my district. By distinguishing these courses with a locally recognized certificate, Boston has in essence created currency. School and district leaders know the value of this currency, as well as the capacity of teacher leaders who have completed these courses.
Through these classes, I have had the important and all too rare opportunity to engage with teacher leaders from various schools. We’ve been able to share our expertise and experiences in ways that help all of us learn from one other and perform at a higher level. When we do this, students win.
In truly developing the capacity of its teachers, Boston is on the leading edge of supporting teachers in professionalizing education. I am optimistic that the city will remain innovative in using their new currency creatively. I hope this includes providing more career advancement opportunities for teacher leaders and, in turn, improved outcomes for our students.
Noah Patel is a middle school math teacher in the Boston Public School District.
The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable 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.