EQ: Teacher Leadership

What does it take to truly develop teacher leadership?

When this question lept off the page for me at a recent Communities for Learning session, it seemed that three days worth of thinking had found a home. This post has been in draft form for a while but I have decided that examining the research and practice around this essential question will be one focus for me in the upcoming year. Since this post will capture my initial thinking around this topic, it is not heavy in the research but merely my attempt to capture the "problem."

Consider these scenerios that recently presented themselves in my work:

District A has adopted a new series and carved out a 90 minute literacy block. Teachers are struggling with the use of the block and despite having an onsite "coach" do not seem to be making good use of the time. In a planning meeting to discuss the development of the teachers, the idea of starting by coaching those teachers who were closest to the ideal in order to have them lead their colleagues was suggested. Building principal was not sure there were many teachers who were "close" and was concerned about how those teachers who were coached might be percieved by their peers.

District B has slowly been acquiring new technology resources for teachers to use and the building principal has been committed to providing teachers with the use of interactive whiteboards. As teachers see this equipment being used in the school, some are ready to embrace the technology (and the learning curve) and try out some lessons. Building principal asks the early users to showcase how they use the technololgy for their peers at a faculty meeting - none feel they have the expertise to do so and the computer teacher demos something instead.

In the same district, one new teacher (untenured) has slowly been integrating the technology even though she has not been given one of the interactive whiteboards. She researchs sites on the Internet, is taking a graduate course on media literacy, brings her class to the school lab weekly and has integrated quite a bit of technology. She even selected a technology based lesson for her observation with the building principal. She is not asked to present at the faculty meeting and has recently been passed by for the installation in her classroom of a new whiteboard purchased by the PTA.

In District C, a consultant has asked teachers who have been engaged in a long-term professional learning opportunity around discourse to share an instance where they took a risk and were successful. In the reflection around this question, teachers struggled to think of answers where they had been successful.

In each of these examples, I am certain that the district wants to foster teacher leadership and that there are teacher leaders available - yet they have not been tapped. What conditions must be in place in a school system for teacher leadership to be developed, and more importantly, to thrive in a sustained way? What dispositions must teacher leaders exhibit to be effective? In short, the essential question is what does it take to truly develop teacher leadership?

As I work to frame this question and my research better - I would appreciate any warm/cool feedback on the identification of the problem and question!!


Karen said...

I have to qualify any comments by saying that I have the world's most exacting dissertation sponsor.... That said, here are my initial thoughts.

What do you mean by leadership? Your question, what does it take to truly develop teacher leadership, puts its focus on true development. This seems to presume that we know and share your definition of leader/leadership. So I'd suggest you are working with several questions, some of which may be: What is a teacher-leader? In what ways do teacher-leaders develop in a school or school district? What roles do other education professionals play in this development? etc.


Angela said...

I'm sorry it's taken me a bit to respond here, Theresa. Been batting all of this around myself before responding.

The question you raise focuses on dispositions, qualities of leadership, behaviors/beliefs and this provides a flexible frame. Karen's questions inspire to ask if the definition of effective teacher-leadership must flex as well, depending on the needs of those being led?