This is the fifth of a six-part conversation on how teachers can grow in their leadership capacities.
While conducting a study on National Board-certified teachers, I found that over 90 percent of those who certified did so because they wanted to become a teacher leader. I choose to define a teacher leader as someone who goes above and beyond the classroom to support the educational community.
I recently met teacher leaders who sought out money and resources to implement their visions of after-school tutoring programs, gardening, living history projects, field trips, and tools for a shop class. They did this because it would have a positive impact on the education of their students.
Teacher leaders are informed professionals who are not afraid to express their opinions. They educate everyone, not just the students in their classrooms, but parents and the community. Becoming a teacher leader may mean engaging in volunteer work, but it definitely means being courageous enough to speak out.
Seeking a way to support teachers who had faced lay-offs, increasing class sizes, and unsavory labels like Persistently Low Performing, I chose to provide them with informed, involved parents. I heard of the California Association of Bilingual Educators (CABE) parent training called Project 2 Inspire while at CTA State Council. CABE had developed a successful parent training and had the research proving it resulted in higher achievement for students. With this information, I applied for and received a grant from the Institute for Teaching, the professional side of the California Teachers Association. My goal was to have a group of our pre-K parents trained and equipped to train other parents, creating a sustainable program that should grow over time.
My biggest challenge was in recruiting the parents to join the class. I created flyers in Spanish and English and sent them home with students three different times at six of our Head Start school sites. I held informational meetings at school sites and at the local union office. Were it not for the positive attitude of Toni Hernandez, the trainer from CABE, I probably would have just returned the money to IFT. Finally, an interested parent signed up and she talked two of her friends into attending also. From that point on, it felt like the shampoo commercial with each of the parents telling two friends and so on. Finally we had a group of 35 parents who were willing to come to a 3-hour training two times each month.
Two years later, the transformation in these women still astounds me. They developed poise and confidence, and many shared the transformations that had continued to their families. Their children and siblings had all been changed because of the experiences of these women. They are now training other parents to be supportive members of a school community that impacts students and the teachers working in our schools.
School systems can begin to trust the teachers they have hired to train their students. They can ask for and use the ideas teachers bring to the table. Using leadership teams as true decisionmakers in schools offers so many positive possibilities: a collective raising of the self-esteem of the profession, greater ownership of projects, and a proliferation of some fabulous ideas that will have a lasting impact on students. Teachers need to trust their ideas and feel empowered to share and implement them.
Bev Bricker is a 25-year elementary classroom teacher, union leader, and adjunct professor. She has been married for 40 years with three wonderful sons. Her passion is advocating for others and helping them achieve their dreams.
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.