The Need for Teacher Leadership
As I thought about defining Teacher Leadership, I thought about the system changes that need to occur in order for teacher leaders to be successful. Innovative and inspiring lessons are happening behind the four walls of a teacher’s classroom. Students are benefitting from access to those superior lessons. Who is not benefitting? Other teachers and other students. Not without the proper culture to invite teachers to become leaders can others take advantage from it. Charlotte Danielson says that, “sometimes on their own initiative and sometimes within a more formal structure, these professionals find a variety of ways to exercise teacher leadership” (2007).
There is a need for teacher leaders in the school system for reasons beyond influencing innovation and inspiration. Without opportunities for teacher leadership, there are not many options for a teacher to expand their horizons. Some are career-teachers and happy to stay within their own classroom. But for many, there is a desire to reach out from behind the four walls of the classroom and share their expertise.
By including teachers in the leadership of the school and district, it ensures that the school culture can maintain beyond any administration. As I heard in class previously, a principal should be able to step out or leave, and the system works regardless of their presence. Investing in teacher leadership can provide continuity and longevity in a vision and culture.
Additionally, principals are experiencing more demands than ever. Distributed leadership is strong way to empower teachers and take pressure off a principal to please all stakeholders. Principals can rely on the expertise that his/her staff has to inform and inspire other teachers. One person (or principal) doesn’t have deep knowledge on everything, but by tapping into the power of teacher leaders, that knowledge can be shared to everyone.
Teacher leader roles fall into two main categories, formal and informal, which are both crucial to the success of a school system. Formal roles are titled and often selected. Their job is critical to maintaining order, curriculum, and training. Informal roles are more naturally selected and collaborative. Both are necessary to implementing change and innovation. The influence can occur on a team level, school-wide level, or beyond-the-classroom.
The need for teacher leadership can only be fostered in the right environment. The first would be a judgment-free zone. Teacher leaders take chances and express new ideas but should not be criticized for their risks. Secondly, a principal needs to protect and encourage teacher leadership in the school. They, also, need to make sure that teachers feel it is ok to succeed and model for their colleagues.
Teacher leadership is a pivotal part of a school-wide system. The need only seems to be growing and the desire of many teachers to be a leader seems to be just as strong. With the right climate, teacher leaders will emerge and the benefits will be seen.