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Follow-Up: Is Teacher Leadership Optional?


Jane Fung

My school district is phasing in a new teacher evaluation process, which includes five standards for assessing performance. Although there is a professional growth expectation, teacher leadership is not explicitly stated as a performance requirement.

The Teacher Leader Model Standards are "a series of broadly stated domains that identify critical dimensions of teacher leadership." On this blog, we have discussed the wide range of leadership activities and examples of how teachers lead, but what about expectations? Do all teachers need to be leaders? Maybe not, but could they be?

Absolutely.

Most classroom teachers I know are already engaged in some form of teacher leadership at the school level. Whether it is serving on school leadership councils, planning and facilitating professional development, mentoring new teachers, or developing school partnerships, educators take responsibility to improve teaching and learning.

Skilled administrators (and teacher leaders) know how to recognize and support the development of teachers as leaders. They know how to build on teachers' interests and passions.

Katy, a 1st grade teacher, generally stays away from involvement outside her classroom. In her seven years of teaching, she had always focused on teaching her students and rarely took on more. But when the arts program was in need of a coordinator, she stepped up to take on that role. Katy said she was happy to do it because of her love for the arts and the importance they served in students' lives.

Physical fitness enthusiast and 2nd grade teacher Loribeth leads the marathon and jump-rope programs every year because of her deep belief in promoting children's health. Fueled by her love of performance and wanting to find a way to celebrate students' talents and bring the community together after the stress of standardized testing, she created, planned, and produced a school talent show. Loribeth invited (gently nudged) other colleagues to work collaboratively with her on this new venture. Teachers who had not been involved in outside classroom activities couldn't say no to her excitement and all had an amazing experience.

I believe that teachers will, and do, take on a leadership role when it is one they are deeply connected to or that improves the lives of students, families, and their colleagues. Teachers lead in different ways, some more quietly than others, but all are essential to our profession.

Jane Fung is a National Board-certified teacher in urban Los Angeles, where she currently teaches 1st grade.

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