Teachers leaders occupy a very unique space in public education, often straddling the line between various roles. This is especially true in organizations that do not build structures in place to formally recognize these individuals. That being said, many of these individuals have to balance two worlds that are strikingly different and suffice to say it can be tricky. This blog will serve as part one in a two-part blog series focusing on teacher leaders. This first post will take the perspective of the teacher leader and focus on some of the ways and considerations teacher leaders must take given their unique position.
What exactly is a teacher leader?
“In schools, the term teacher-leader is commonly applied to teachers who have taken on leadership roles and additional professional responsibilities.”
Before looking beyond the surface here it is worth mentioning that all teachers are leaders in our own way within each and every one of our classrooms. Our leadership in this realm must focus on continually learning and growing along with our students. However many of us continue to serve our students and communities beyond the classroom walls, and these roles can be as diverse as our students are. Teacher leaders roles can be defined into categories like curriculum, instruction, or even school leadership (serving as team leader, committee member, etc.). They can also serve niche areas that may not have a formal position such as mentoring, community outreach, other school-based activities.
Regardless of the role you may be filling your contributions are critical to the success of your organization, however, we are all capable of performing critical functions outside of our classrooms that can advance the work we do in the classroom. This post is a look at how anyone can be an agent of change and become a teacher leader.
- Start Small- There is so much that is happening within our schools as a result of changes occurring to all sorts of internal and external stimuli. The system as it stands in most school districts was built on now archaic top-down models that have not adapted to the times. The net result is that there is way too much to do and not enough time and bodies to do it. With that in mind, find something small that involves a need not immediately addressed in your school. Perhaps it is as simple as sharing a lesson or a new tool you have found. Nothing is too small if it means that even one student or teacher will benefit from its use.
- Come from a place of Comfort- Every single person who is or ever will be in a place of leadership was once the “low guy on the totem pole.” That being said focus on an area that you are comfortable with or better yet even passionate about. Much like in number one, the key is to find an underserved area and then to address it hopefully in a way that will bring a positive impact to the school culture.
- Take a Chance- My father was an educator for 40 years, and one of the most memorable pieces of advice he gave he is that “as a teacher we don’t ever have to ask when is the last time you have done something for someone else.” We get up and serve our students, our school, and our communities each and every day. So long as our risks and our chances have the potential to impact our students in a positive way, it is worth the possible result. The reality is that some of our chances or risks may result in failure, but that hardly means a risk wasn’t worth it. Failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of success.
Regardless of where you are at on your journey in education, we all have the capacity to demonstrate leadership. Lead by example, you never know who’s watching. Lead up!