The Value of Teacher Leadership Today—and Tomorrow

The Value of Teacher Leadership Today—and Tomorrow

In the most basic sense, teacher leaders are educators who take the reins on initiatives and projects outside their own classrooms. They might head professional learning communities, mentor new teachers, work with community nonprofits, or engage with policymakers at the district, state, or even national level. Teacher leaders are often trusted sources of advice at their schools. And in many cases, they're catalysts for school change.

Last year, a consortium of 38 organizations released the Teacher Leader Model Standards, which outline seven domains of teacher leadership. The domains, or areas in which teacher leaders can hone their expertise, include fostering collaboration, using research, promoting professional learning, and improving outreach.

In your experience, what is the value of teacher leadership? In what ways do you consider yourself a teacher leader, and which of the domains do you find most important in your role? What can administrators and policymakers do to encourage educators to lead beyond their own classrooms? What are your hopes for the future of teacher leadership?

Roundup Post: What Makes a Teacher Leader?

By guest blogger Leanne Link, communications assistant at the Center for Teaching Quality As this month's Roundtable participants pointed out, teacher leaders are everywhere. Many lead in nontraditional or unrecognized ways, as Jane Fung and Patrick Ledesma reminded us. At the same time, bloggers were able to identify some effective habits that many teacher leaders hold in common. Teacher leaders ... Spread positivity. Cheryl Suliteanu advises teachers leaders to "approach others with solutions-focused ideas. Speak with good intentions, and be an active listener with a positive perspective." Share their voices. Lillie Marshall urges teachers to make their voices heard via social ...


Follow-Up: A Differentiated Career Ladder

Patrick Ledesma During my last post, I discussed the institutional challenges limiting the development of teacher leadership. While Sarah and Janet are fictional "composite" teacher leaders, their stories are represented by teacher leaders in schools everywhere. Formal validation of these teacher leadership roles is necessary. We need a career ladder that articulates the responsibilities of different roles. From this career ladder and resulting job descriptions, we can then identify and develop the knowledge and skills these leaders will need to be successful. We can better provide professional development to grow teacher leadership in various capacities. These roles will add to ...


Follow-Up: Boston's Model for Teacher-Leader Training

Noah Patel 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 ...


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 ...


Follow-Up: Positive Teacher Leadership

Cheryl Suliteanu The common thread I find as I read articles and blogs on teacher leadership is that "teachers are the experts." So why, as Justin pointed out, aren't teachers leading the way with creating standards? Why aren't teachers discussing ideas, suggestions, concerns, questions, and solutions with district administrators? Jessica asked me how teacher leaders might go about bringing their ideas out in the open. There's a simple answer and a complex answer. The simple answer is responsible action: I recognized a need that I wanted to address. I considered potential solutions. I researched current practices locally and nationally. I ...


Follow-Up: Teacher Leaders' Responsibility to Advocate

Jessica Cuthbertson What is advocacy? A quick dictionary search surfaces a list of synonyms that include: insistency, active support, urging, pleading and arguing in favor of something. "Advocating for Student Learning and the Profession," the seventh domain of the Teacher Leader Model Standards uses the word to capture what teacher leaders say and do to advance the profession, inform policy, and improve student learning. My initial post explored the public persona of teachers—we represent the profession wherever we go and whatever we do—and this involves both responsibility and opportunity. But we do not have to work as independent...


Follow-Up: Teacher Voice Matters in Education Policy

Justin Minkel Here's a troubling riddle: What do NCLB, Obama's Blueprint for Reform, and the Common Core Standards have in common? Not a single teacher was in the room when they were written. Last week, I met one of the authors of the common standards. I asked her why teachers weren't involved in writing them. This is what she said: 1. "Teachers are so busy." Umm...true. "They just wouldn't have the time." Umm...false. Every teacher leader I know is willing to invest time and energy if it will benefit kids. Summers are generally a good time to tap ...


Follow-Up: Teacher Leaders Should Stop Being Scaredy Cats and Embrace Social Media

Lillie Marshall Teachers lag behind other careers in harnessing the power of social media, and a major reason is fear. "It's dangerous to put my words on Twitter or Facebook," I've heard educators explain. "Who knows who might stumble across it? And you know, things on the Internet never go away." Teachers frequently feel this undercurrent of fear. Each day, tabloid headlines scream "Teacher Fired for ___!", reminding us that we're constantly in the public eye—an eye that hungers to blame and judge. Often this fear squashes our voices and stunts our potential as teacher leaders. But I think it is...


People Need to Hear From Teachers

Jane Fung My teacher leadership started with a principal who believed I had the potential to make an impact beyond my classroom. She first invited me to write a grant for the school and continued to push me beyond my comfort zone, asking that I take on student teachers. Mine became a model classroom for teacher observations. At the same time, a colleague who was already a teacher leader nudged, guided, and mentored me into leading professional development outside of our school and district. The more experience I had as a teacher leader, the more opportunities came my way. And ...


Scratching the Teacher Leadership Itch

Noah Patel In my previous blogs last fall, I spoke about the importance of creating a meaningful career ladder for teachers. This proposal included opportunities for career advancement through mentoring. Additionally, I advocated for more formalized roles for teachers who wish to increase their influence while deepening their capacity and developing the skills of others. As a mentor this past school year, I loved being able to collaborate with a new teacher in my math classroom. While I brought expertise to our partnership, she brought fresh perspective and we worked together to advance not only her growth as a teacher, ...


Leading Through Outreach and Relationships

Cheryl Suliteanu Teacher leadership is a mind-set rather than a title; a perception of endless possibilities with every new experience; the belief that within myself I have the ability to bring new ideas to life; the knowledge that relationships are everything. I chose to earn my National Board certification in English as a New Language because I was drawn to the community aspect of the standards, as I am drawn to Domain 6 of the Teacher Leader Model Standards, "Improving Outreach and Collaboration with Families and Community." A teacher leader recognizes the impact that families, cultures, and communities have on ...


A Teacher Leader Excels Beyond the Education Sphere

Lillie Marshall Our definition of teacher leadership is too narrow. Examining the "Seven Domains of Teacher Leadership," a domain is glaringly missing: the rest of the world. In my first five years teaching in a Boston Public School, I was no leader. Sure, I mentored a full-time student teacher, and I collaborated with my colleagues on projects that improved our school, but something about it felt limited. It wasn't until I took a leave of absence in 2009 that I realized: I didn't feel like a teacher leader because I wasn't a leader beyond the education sphere. During my leave ...


It's Time to Formalize Teacher Leadership Roles

Patrick Ledesma Sarah is a department chair in her high school. In that role, she collaborates closely with administration to implement decisions on school wide initiatives to support her content area. She assists with hiring and designing the master schedule. She mentors and supports other teachers for all curriculum and instructional issues, and most importantly, serves as the expert in her content area to inform administrators, who have never taught in her subject area. Janet is a special education department chair. In this capacity, she manages a department of 23 teachers and other staff providing services to over 200 students. ...


The Public Persona of Teacher Leaders

Jessica Cuthbertson My parents said it often: "Never do something today that you don't want to read in tomorrow's newspaper." Their warning foreshadowed how quickly the lines can blur between a private and public persona—even before Facebook, Twitter, and rampant blogging. Much of the work that goes on inside the walls of our classrooms is still invisible to those outside of the immediate learning community. But all teachers have public personas: We are recognized as teachers in coffee shops, grocery stores, and on walks with our dogs in the park. Community members ask us to speak for and as teachers,...


Creating 21st-Century Teachers for 21st-Century Students

Justin Minkel Kids pay more attention to what we do than what we say. That simple truth has profound implications for teaching 21st-century skills: If we want students to collaborate, innovate, and solve problems, we need to model these skills ourselves. During the best week of professional development I have experienced, my colleagues and I taught one another. On Monday, our school's math coach stopped by my classroom to look at student work together and plan next steps. The following day, she observed me teaching and gave me the constructive criticism I had invited. Later that week, I went down ...


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.

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