The following is an excerpt of our latest whitepaper, “Teacher Leaders: The (Not So) Secret Catalyst for Change.”
While teacher leaders have always been an important part of a school’s culture, this type of leadership continues to gain much-needed attention and momentum in school systems nationwide.
There is such a strong need for teacher leadership that a group of educators met in 2008 to form what we know today as the Teacher Leadership Exploratory Consortium. This consortium, comprised of a variety of stakeholders, formed to discuss how to best foster teacher leadership so that it brings about change in student learning and achievement. In 2011, this group released the Teacher Leader Model Standards, which help teachers and school leaders foster leadership within their schools.
The Differences Between an Effective Teacher and a Teacher Leader
In our current work, we facilitate an abundance of professional learning around teacher leadership. What we’ve coined Digital Leader Corps takes groups of teachers on a journey toward digital transformation in their classrooms. The program, however, intends for teachers’ influence to spread well beyond the walls of their classrooms and aims to develop these educators as leaders among their peers. Teachers who participate in Digital Leader Corps learn about leadership through the Teacher Leader Model Standards—they learn how to facilitate the learning of their peers’, work collaboratively with their principals to elicit meaningful change, and gain strategies for creating safe and trusting environments where others aren’t afraid to take risks.
This sounds amazing, right? It is — when it works effectively. The biggest challenge of cultivating and growing a group of teacher leaders is recognizing the difference between an effective teacher and a teacher leader. Too often, school administrators don’t know how to discern the qualities and characteristics of a potential teacher leader. Similarly, many teachers don’t truly understand what it means to lead among peers.
Tapping the Power of Teacher Leadership
Teacher leadership has the potential to bring about positive systemic change that influences a variety of factors within a school. When teacher leaders fully understand their impact on colleagues, observable changes in student learning can occur. A 2005 study concluded that the professionalism teacher leadership has the potential to build—one that is based on trust, recognition, empowerment, and support—can improve teaching and learning in schools (Harris and Muijs, 2005). While the Teacher Leader Model Standards provide the framework for fostering such leadership, the process for equipping teacher leaders with the ability and confidence to carry out what the Standards call for is much more complex.
Download the full whitepaper to read more!