Celebrating the “Awakening Giant” of teacher leadership

This month at the Teacher Leaders Network, we’re celebrating the newly published 3rd edition of the teacher leadership classic Awakening the Sleeping Giant with several features, including an interview with co-author Gayle Moller, a review of the enhanced new edition, and a personal reflection of the book’s influence by TLN member Nancy Flanagan at Teacher Magazine.

When the first edition of Sleeping Giant appeared in 1996, Moller says, “there were few people who acknowledged that teachers could be leaders. At the same time, when teacher leaders read our book they said: ‘You wrote about me!'”

In the last eight years, school system leaders have begun to acknowledge that they’re not getting the results they would like. And many realize that mandates and limited professional development are not effective ways to improve results. The perceptive district leader is now turning to teachers who are competent and can work with their colleagues at the school building level.

New teacher leadership roles — literacy coaches, mentors, and staff developers — are becoming commonplace. In addition, the National Board certification process has helped many potential teacher leaders realize how they can improve their own practice and help other teachers. External support systems, like the Teachers Leader Network, are encouraging teachers to move outside their “comfort zone” to interact with other teacher leaders.

Shall we declare 2009 the Year of the Teacher Leader? Maybe not quite yet — we still see too much evidence that teachers’ expert opinions about effective practice are not highly valued, especially in policy circles. But as Moller and co-author Marilyn Katzenmeyer document, teacher leadership is on the rise. We’re confident that as teachers continue to accept more ownership of their profession, frustrated state and national leaders will ultimately figure out where to go for viable policy solutions.

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