Posted by José Luis Vilson on Thursday, 12/26/2013
A couple of days ago, I spoke about the importance of teacher leadership and the urgency of creating your own voice. Rafranz Davis commented:
"I agree with you 100%, however I've seen too many instances where teachers have tried to take a stand, lead and be heard...only to be "put in their place" by the admin, campus and district, being uncomfortable with relinquishing control ... stopped that "little revolution" before it even started. What do you tell that teacher?"
It's a great question and one that comes up too often. Why must teacher leadership be so difficult? The idea of teacher leadership sounds like a novel idea, one necessary for the growth of any profession. It helps everyone involved, too. Teachers get to demonstrate their professional growth over time and help the school in whatever capacity necessary, filling voids where need be. Principals get to say they cultivate leaders in the building, and work with teacher leaders on mentoring new teachers. Students get a benefit of having a teacher with a macro-view of the school, and any expertise shared by the teacher leader could be shared in their classrooms.
Yet, as with everything, how teacher leaders arise can either inspire or smack of favoritism, depending on the school.
Leadership often requires a level of honesty that our education system still doesn't value. Sometimes, the person who wants their voice heard isn't trying to be part of the solution, which is another problem altogether. The most effective of us know that our voices often come with a responsibility; speaking up means providing more than "See, the problem is ..."
Because teacher leadership is any number of things, but it's not busy work. When I think of teacher leadership, I think of teachers creating, facilitating, and helping items that directly influence student learning. Curriculum development? Yes. Data creation? Eh, somewhat. Dean-ing / disciplinarian work? It depends. Mentoring other teachers? Absolutely. Organizing paperwork? Mostly no.
I have plenty more examples, but our little revolutions won't go anywhere if we don't clearly define what it is we're after. In no way am I saying don't speak up. I'm merely saying we should know what we do once we speak up. Because, otherwise, you'll be given a task that'll keep you quiet, and that's not how change happens.