Kevin Jarrett asks these questions via multiple tweets, hoping we’ll provide some perspective. As a veteran educator caught up in the ebb-n-flow of reforms that do little but erode the education establishment, much less transform it, I despair that I have any answers to offer. Yet consideration of the questions is important, if only because Kevin dared to ask them.
His questions include the following:
- “What evidence do you see re: teacher leadership & its impact on school, community, student learning or job satisfaction?”
- “What should a teacher leader know and be able to do?
- “How do we build capacity for teacher leadership?”
- “What makes you a teacher leader?”
Rather than try to steer my own way clear of the current that draws me into the inescapable deep, I’m going to try to respond from my perspective as someone caught in the current. A middle-aged educator with a mortgage, family to feed and form, desperate to find the funding needed to keep my legacy as being more than electrons scattered throughout the edublogosphere, a few words on journals and magazines tossed into corners, immortalized and inconsequential…and, I’m going to have fun. And, that may mean my answers are no more useful to Kevin than a breeze on a cool day.
What makes you a teacher leader?
In my lofty position as administrator, I am entrenched in the culture and vision of the education establishment. Wherever I look, I see darkness and despair at the options available to our Texas children. They are slaving away in a system that not only disenfranchises them from the present reality of interconnected creativity, but also, the future possible to them. If I would identify any qualities for a teacher leader, it would be those intangibles that have little to do with your methodology, your merit, or how quickly you fill out paperwork…what makes a teacher leader is an indefatigable hope, unflappable in the face of endless meetings about mundane events that mean nothing, articulating the truth in ways that are palatable to the principals and paper-pushers whose motto is, “Soldier, ask not…” their thoughts and minds locked to a single purpose–do what they are told.
In the face of the greyness, the sameness of uniformity, the systematic supercilious complexity of captive minds imagining terror, I seek courage in the teacher leader to be different in simple ways.
How do we build capacity for teacher leadership?
We build capacity for teacher leadership, not by building those programs in schools, but in our churches and homes. We encourage thinking and the leadership that is the independent, American mind, unafraid to accept what must be done and then to do it with respect for, but not fear of, the consequences. If a teacher is fortunate enough to find someone, then let it be that one teacher will help another in the trenches, not to help them do what they are told, but to help them find the way to open the door for students who must find their own way.
What should a teacher leader know and be able to do?
A teacher leader should know how to help fellow teachers, be skillful in the use of a wide variety of tools and approaches that passionately engage learners, as well as nurture them in their growth and forward movement. They should know when to subvert the mission given to them, to make it sparkle rather than dull in the face of strict instruction, smile and collaboratively help others to learn within the context of a powerful professional learning network that expands professional learning beyond classroom walls…their approach is passionately reflective, and peaceful without rancor or bitterness.
What evidence do you see re: teacher leadership & its impact on school, community, student learning or job satisfaction?
The only evidence I see is the teacher as a stalwart of the community, relied upon by others. I’ve seen it more in small rural districts than in urban districts that swallow people alive…there’s something to the small pond and the impact one can have. For a teacher to be a leader, their effect has to be made in the community in which they work, their relationships have to encompass more than their teaching….
If 150 relationships is all we can handle, perhaps we need to form smaller communities that are close enough to each other to benefit from shared wisdom but far enough to recognize the value of a teacher who dares to hope, is brave enough to act, wise enough to speak when others would be silent, and to say that which must be said without offense.
There, Kevin, I’ve given you totally useless answers to your questions. Now, what did you expect me to say?
In the meantime, consider the following:
- Most researchers agree that teacher leaders demonstrate expertise in their instruction and share that knowledge with colleagues; are consistently on a professional learning curve; practice reflection; engage in continuous action research; collaborate with peers, parents, and communities; become socially aware and politically involved; mentor new teachers; become more involved in preparing pre-service teachers; and are risk-takers who participate in school decisions. (Source)
- Being a teacher leader means sharing and representing relevant and key ideas of our work as teachers in contexts beyond our individual classrooms so as to improve the education of our students and our ability to provide it for them. (Source)
- Teacher leadership is the process by which teachers, individualy or collectively, influence their colleagues, principals, and other members of the school communities to improve teaching and learning practices with the aim of increased student learning and achievement. (Source)
- Results indicated that ongoing, high quality professional development experiences played an important role in their [teacher leader] careers. Their ability to collaborate with peers and to become more reflective practitioners was enhanced by powerful professional development. These experiences also expanded their professional networks. . .Besides high levels of expertise, collaboration, reflection, empowerment, and flexibility, teachers needed to develop sophisticated expertise in pedagogical content knowledge and a professional network to support ongoing learning in order to be effective leaders. The encouragement of respected mentors and colleagues, coupled with continuous nourishment of their intellectual interests through rigorous learning opportunities, were the keys to their success. (Source)
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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure