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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 the differentiated levels of a true teaching profession.

What will it take for educators to advance the idea of teacher leadership?

There are many unanswered questions:

  • We believe in teacher leadership, but do all teachers really want a differentiated career ladder? In the discussions around the Teacher Leadership Model Standards, there is a concern about a resulting hierarchy of teachers. This departs from the egalitarian nature of teaching, where all teachers are considered the same.
  • Teachers are natural leaders in the classroom with students. All teachers already lead. Does being a leader of students automatically translate to being a leader of adults? Or are there a specific set of skills that not all teachers readily have that allow them to be successful leading adults? Naturally, all teachers should have the opportunity to develop these skills. But, let's not lump all forms of informal and formal teacher leadership into one category.
  • How can schools have the flexibility to develop teacher leadership roles based on local context? The need for teacher leadership arises to solve local challenges. Teacher leadership may look different across various schools. What flexibility will educators need to create teacher leadership roles that benefit each community?

These are tough questions that will test the commitment to teacher leadership.

Hopefully, through these discussions, we get closer to finding solutions.

Patrick Ledesma is a middle school technology specialist and special education department chair with Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia.

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