Tuesday, March 28, 2017

MTL 528- Blog #4 Benefits for Teacher Leaders

MTL 528: Blog #4

Benefits for Teacher Leaders

As we talk about teacher leaders and their positive impacts on a school culture, its teachers, the students, and the system, I (selfishly) started to wonder- What’s in it for me?  My last blogs have focused on why we need teacher leadership, the obstacles they face, and how to be one, but nothing on why to personally become one.

It had me wondering why I enrolled in a Teacher Leadership program.  Did I do this for the better of my students or for me?  I think the students are the natural beneficiaries of anything I do.  To improve me is to support my students.  Always.  But I think there has to be a personal desire to be a teacher leader as well.  So I come back to my question- what’s in it for me?

Personal Gains

Completing a teacher leadership master’s degree is just the start.  There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with the hard work.  There’s often pay increases in salary.  Great resume additions (if ever needed).  Overall satisfaction with new education.

Intellectual and Professional Growth

Becoming a teacher leader can lead to increased knowledge.  Through an official program, the learning is structured and specific with important goals.  This can lay the foundation for your leadership style and vision.  But there is the intellectual knowledge you gain on the job as well.  The more colleagues you interact with, the more opportunities you try, the more research you explore, then the more you gain in hands-on experiences and knowledge.  Professionally, you improve your practice.

Decreased Isolation

I know in my first year, I was very closed doors.  I didn’t want anyone to see what I was doing or how I was doing it.  I didn’t want to be judged or misunderstood.  Understandable for a first year teacher, but if this continues beyond your first year, then you work in isolation.  Never reaching out behind your walls to see what else your school (colleagues) have to offer.  With teacher leadership, you reach out.  You find answers.  You seek change and collaboration.  Two minds are better than one!

Job Satisfaction

Teachers tend to be teachers forever, with exception of those that move on to administration.  Teacher leadership provides that outlet.  There’s not many place to move up as a teacher but by sharing resources, inspiring others, leading PD, and imposing positivity and change, a teacher can feel renewed job satisfaction.  They don’t need a promotion but they have a way to impart knowledge and feel like they can make a difference.

These areas do not fully summarize what benefits you potentially receive as a teacher leader but could perhaps showcase what makes being a teacher leader just so attractive.  So when I think what’s in it for me?,  it sounds like a pretty good deal.  I improve my teaching practice and constantly learn more, I feel personally achieved, happier in my job, and surrounded by colleagues to collaborate with.  What do I have to lose?


Boyd-Dimock, V. & McGree, K.M.  (1995).  Leading change from the classroom: Teachers as leaders.  Issues...About Change, 4(4).

Saturday, March 18, 2017

MTL 528- Blog #3 Gusto

MTL 528: Blog #3


I was inspired to write this blog after I commented on a professional blog this week.  I have been following Dan Rockwell on Twitter for a few months now.  I stumbled across his name @Leadershipfreak and I quickly started following him.  His tweets are usually one-liners about leadership that really make you think.  I typically agree with his posts but there have been a few that have made me disagree.  Some of the disagreement may be due to the fact that his blog and tweets are not necessarily related to teaching practices.  

In a recent blog, Dan Rockwell wrote about helping reluctant team members find their gusto.  He listed 5 steps for leaders to use to help team members go from self-doubt to believing.  His first step involves listening- listening for the wants of the team member.  Secondly, remind them of successes they have add or encourage them to think about them.  Next, determine their commitments to this process.  Then create a list of other resources or team members that can assist them. And, finally, decide on the next steps.  

After I read this blog, I realized that I had seen very similar steps before.  In the Professional Development course, we read an article called It’s About the Questions by Ronald Bearwald.  Bearwald explains that effective coaching is not about answers but about the questions.  There needs to be a commitment from both parties.  Questions should foster growth and create valuable insights.  Instead of giving answers, coaches provide resources and support.  I found important overlap in both this article and Rockwell’s blog.  

When I trained to be a mentor last year, the biggest focus in all our sessions was about listening and questioning.  For a leader of any kind to be successful, they must have the ability to listen in order to lead.  There’s a lot to be heard in the silence.  For instance, I sometimes will sit back and just listen during PD.  There’s not always value in what I have to say but there will be value in what I hear.  A good leader needs to practice listening to the silence.  A reluctant teacher may not say their fears or what they wish they could do.  A coach/leader may need to infer.  That’s where the right questions come into play.  Asking a teacher what they want or, like Rockwell asked, “what happens if you do nothing?”  These questions have power behind them and can begin the transformation of reluctant teachers to good and good teachers to better.  

The goal is for reluctant teachers to find their gusto.  If a teacher has self-doubt, then they are worried about something they may want to try.  There’s a door there waiting to be opened.  For instance, I fear using a Google Hangout with an “expert” (aka a stranger) in my classroom.  Why do I fear this.  I am worried it won’t work or be worthwhile.  But when I read the question from Dan Rockwell’s blog “What happens if you do nothing?”, I think about that.  My kids are missing out a potentially inspiring and transformational experience.  That was the right question to ask me.  Now I need resources and someone to help me with that.  I’m ready for what’s next.  More gusto!


Bearwald, R.  (2011).  It’s About the Questions.  Educational Leadership, 69(2), 74-77.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

MTL 528- Blog #2 Obstacles for Teacher Leadership

Obstacles for Teacher Leadership

In my last blog, I talked about the need for teacher leadership to exist.  Principals need support, teachers need opportunities to grow, and others need to learn from them.  In this post, I explore just what challenges or obstacles a teacher leader may face.

I previously talked about how the school climate needs to be one that allows for teacher leaders to step up without judgement and be protected when things don’t go as planned.  But what if there is a school full of potential teacher leaders, and they all stay behind their four walls?  

According to Johnson and Donaldson, due to increased pressure in testing, and “because recent large-scale retirements have left a shrinking pool of veteran teachers, principals often ask teachers in the second stage of their career, with 4 to 10 years of experience, to take on these specialized roles” (2007).  

The issue that these newly regarded leaders face are the previously established norms of the school.   Your school may have a need for teacher leadership, and a principal that is recognizing that there are leaders within their building, but without buy-in from the rest of the teachers, the impact is minimal and the culture change is non-existent.  Teaching as a profession has long gone unchanged.  The more years of experience, the more inappropriate it may feel for a newer teacher to provide coaching or modeling.  The difficult part of this challenge is for veteran teachers to overcome this fear of someone more novice leading their instructional practice in new directions.  Novice leaders must be comfortable reaching out to those teachers by building relationships and trust.

Trust plays a major role in establishing a productive culture for teacher leadership.  But when teacher leaders (that are titled or recognized by the principal) are given more access to teachers or to principal time, the trust is threatened making it harder for a teacher leader to positively influence change.  The bitter feelings that can emerge from veteran teachers toward the less-experienced leaders can create a difficult working environment.  How does a teacher leader build the trust, inspiration, and understanding with those that resist?

According to Johnson and Donaldson, another hurdle is maintaining the position long enough to make the impact.  While some schools are able to add coaches as full-time time staff members, some schools are receiving grants to add on these positions.  The coach does their best to make connections with teachers and checks-in from time to time.  When money runs out, the coach is simply let go with minimal effects (2007).  If a coach is truly making an impact and affecting the system, there should be major detriments if that staff member were to leave.  Just more evidence that teacher leadership is not fostered in the right environment.
The first way to combat the resistance and encourage teacher leadership would be build relationships first.  Demonstrate to the veteran teachers and others that you are an expert in your area of practice and you can be trusted.  Wait to be called on by those that recognize your abilities.  Do not force it on them.  Approach it gently.  Begin with those that are willing.  Prove to them your worth and produce results that are evident to others.  Begin as a collaborator and a support rather than a leading teacher.

Teachers (many in the four to ten year range) are ready for the responsibility of being a leader, they make it through many of the hurdles to becoming a valuable change agent like building solid relationships, but it oftens begins and ends with the principal.  How can a teacher leader overcome that obstacle?

Johnson, S.M. & Donaldson, M.L. (2007).  Overcoming the obstacles of leadership.  Educational
Leadership, 65(1), 8-13.