Administrators and Principals: Check Out Our “Treehouse”

Sometimes, it feels as if we teacher leaders are operating in a secret treehouse in the woods of our childhoods, with friends trading insights and baseball cards, generally scheming up ways to make our corners of the world a more meaningful place. Let’s invite administrators into the treehouse to share our insights. Let’s also climb on down and be deliberate about learning more about how the goals of administrators and teacher leaders can mesh more effectively.

Sometimes, it feels as if we teacher leaders are operating in a secret treehouse in the woods of our childhoods, with friends trading insights and baseball cards, generally scheming up ways to make our corners of the world a more meaningful place. We’re a club–perhaps even a clique–of like-minded teachers who want to shake things up, to redesign schools and curriculum, embrace continuous reflection and learning, and promote working conditions conducive for sustained teacher, student, and school success.

The problem is, as long as the clubhouse remains shuttered to other stakeholders like yourselves, it’s hard to get anything done at local levels beyond our own classroom walls. Sure, we teacher leaders can pat each others’ backs, grow our PLNs, read each others’ blogs, and attend conferences for teachers by teachers. But the efforts reach a plateau and stagnate without greater empathy and collaboration with others invested in the system.

Administrators, come on in and check out what we’re up to. Real headway can’t be made in the transformation of teacher leadership and school design, among other initiatives, if we aren’t in the treehouse together. This goes both ways.

Forging personal connections outside of comfort zones often precedes meaningful strategic action, and this is where we sometimes falter as teacher leaders.

We are great at connecting with other like-minded educators via Twitter and other digital platforms like this Collaboratory. We generally know how to seek out audiences of classroom teachers. We talk to other teachers in our buildings much more often that stepping into your office or chatting with you in hallways and classrooms.

I know that the complexity of your jobs makes it nearly impossible for of you to be abreast of all the wins, and deep learning that might be going on inside your school buildings across the country. I also know we can easily fall back on the too busy excuse to set aside structured time to really learn about each others’ challenges. Let’s avoid that trap.

Administrators, did you know that teachers here in the Collaboratory serve as Virtual Community Organizers, bringing together enthusiastic voices in synchronous and asynchronous digital environments to brainstorm solutions to myriad challenges? Did you know that we have dedicated spaces to discuss innovative leadership. school redesign, and teacher evaluation? Did you know that momentum is building for more widespread adoption of Teacherpreneurial roles, in which teachers remain grounded in the classroom but are given the time and space to help bring solutions to scale?

I’m currently reading The Starfish and The Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organization by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom. The authors compare and contrast centralized organizations (traditional education structures, to be sure) and more dynamic, flexible decentralized organizations, and there’s plenty to think about how we allocate decision-making in the education system.

The spider represents a highly-centralized organization, where chain-of-command and layers of bureaucracy result in stability, but little change and frustration for those of us–teachers and administrators alike–who’d like to initiate and innovate. On the other hand, starfish organizations regenerate and share power.

Let’s embrace more of a hybrid spider/starfish model, where teacher leaders are given the autonomy to lead and help make decisions in a more fluid, flexible manner. Teachers and administrators, I challenge you to sit down with each other. Listen. Share. Understand. There’s only so much we can do in our various treehouses without inviting others up into our forts, where ideas germinated in relative seclusion often remain in the realm of potential rather than becoming reality.

Related categories: ,