Sunday, February 19, 2017

MTL 528- Blog #1: The Need for Teacher Leadership

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.


  1. Thanks for bringing up the important issue of what types of contexts foster teacher leadership, Rachel. Teacher leaders cannot develop in isolation and they need to be networked with other teacher leaders - especially since this type of leadership is so broad that many different types of instructional expertise and leadership are needed simultaneously. I've been thinking about the analogy of a sports team lately for teacher leadership. No one questions the important roles that the "first string" plays in the team's success. Everyone aspires to become part of that first string - but it takes a team and in most sports players rotate in and out of positions that are best suited to their skills. We need to think of teacher leadership as more of a team sport and look to our teammates and appreciate their contributions but expect excellence from each other. Looking forward to your next blog.

  2. You do a very thorough job of explaining why there is a need for teacher leaders in schools. Principals are pulled in so many directions these days that I sometimes wonder how they continue to want to stay a principal. There have been entire weeks that I have not seen my principal! She relies heavily on our SLT (school leadership team) to sort of man the fort if she is busy. She doesn't micromanage teams and departments because we have strong leaders with expertise in many different areas that she can trust. I look forward to having further discussions in class on how to foster the environment for teacher leaders to feel safe and willing to succeed.

  3. I completely agree with your comment about teacher leadership only being able to grow in certain environments. This environment needs to be one that embraces taking chances & allows for teachers to make mistakes. Only in this type of environment will teacher leaders continue to flourish and grow.

  4. Rachel,
    I really like that you brought up the need for a cultural shift in our schools. I agree that we can no longer rely on the principal as the only head of the school who is in charge of making all of the decisions. What do you think is the best way to create this culture shift? While I agree that this is seen in a lot of individual schools already, I think this is something that we need to start seeing in our teacher education programs? I know when I was getting my first teaching degree, I never took a leadership class. Why can't this be something incorporated into a teacher training program? While I know that beginning teachers have a lot more to focus on in terms of learning how to lesson plan and classroom manage, perhaps a basic leadership class early on could be beneficial? The course that we are in right now just seems like it would be beneficial for a lot of teachers, not just a select few who are in this program.

    1. I think one way to create a culture shift would be through collaborative school teams. A variety of members including various grade levels, experience levels, ability levels, etc. should comprise this team. Using this team to help create protocols and a vision could be the start of creating a culture shift.

  5. Rachel,

    You really seem to emphasize why many of us joined this teacher leadership program; because "there is a desire to reach out from behind the four walls of the classroom and share [our] expertise. Many teachers want to collaborate with each other, observe their peers, and continue to grow as an educator. With a renewed focus on PLCs in my building, there is a new emergence of teacher leaders. Teachers are not only wanting to improve their own teaching, but also share their expertise and improve the teaching of their colleagues. With the combination of more teacher leaders and increased collaboration, I think we'll continue to see student engagement and success to increase.

  6. Hi Rachel,

    Great post! One thing you commented on that really stuck out to me was this: our principals really DO have more on their plates than ever before! My building is technically between principals right now, but our current system is working out incredibly well. Our interim principal is a retired district principal. Because he can only work so many days for the remainder of the year, he can only be in the building a few days each week. While he's with us, he works on the budget and does all the evaluative tasks such as observations. However, we also have a "building administrator". He was one of our teachers who had his Type 75. He deals with all behavior and student issues as well as the day to day management of the building. This is not a leadership structure our building is used to, but we are surprised by how much we LOVE it! I think districts might consider exploring alternate leadership structure in order to meet the needs of both kids and staff.