Teacher Leaders: Who Are They? Are You One?
When you think of the term, “teacher leader,” you may think of those classroom teachers who aspire to become building administrators or central office supervisors. Certainly, many individuals do set out on the administration track fairly early in their careers. It is a way to gain power or professional prestige, and it is certainly one of the surest ways to to improve their salaries given the current system..
When I think of “teacher leaders,” however, I am considering those unofficial leaders in the building…the ones who don't care to become administrators because they feel that their true calling demands that they stay closer to their students. They love their grade level or their subject area, and the idea of managing a building and the host of problems that go with administration just don't have appeal. It is those folks that I am thinking of as I write about teacher leaders.
Every building has at least one…the teacher who is vocal in faculty meetings, asks the questions that everyone wants to ask but is afraid to for fear of possible reprisal, and is willing to confront the principal in public or in private when he or she is convinced that the principal is on the wrong track.
I have been privileged to work with a number of strong teacher leaders over the course of my career, and as I look back on that career, I realize that I became one somewhere along the way. I was the person people began to ask questions of, run suggestions by, and gripe to when they were afraid to say anything to the principal themselves. I also worked side-by-side with some really strong and fabulous teacher leaders who ran their departments, took on extra duties, and just generally helped to make the school the best possible environment for their students.
I have also worked with some great administrators although not all of them rank as high as others in my opinion or my esteem. The best administrators, in my experience, were those who demonstrated through word and deed that they cared about the students and the teachers in the school and they more often than not served as a buffer between the central office and the school.
When I talk about helping teachers hone or enhance their leadership skills, I am specifically speaking to helping them decide how to have the greatest impact on their classroom, their school, their school district, or their professional organization. I was never a principal myself although I earned my endorsement for Administration & Supervision and I earned a Ph. D. in Educational Leadership. I have demonstrated my leadership qualities in numerous other ways. For example, I am a National Board Certified Library Media Specialist, and I was a local leader in my local National Education Association affiliate before becoming a member of the state board of directors and eventually becoming the President of the Virginia Education Association (2008-2012).
Teacher leaders don't have to become administrators in order to be leaders, so if you consider that you are a teacher leader who wishes to expand your influence by improving your leadership skills, let's work together. I understand teacher leadership from the standpoint of standing up for students and for the profession as opposed to going the administration route, and I have mentored many emerging leaders over the years. If you are looking for individualized attention as you hone your own leadership skills, I am here to help. Call me at 804-404-5457 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org