Teacher leadership: Putting the horse back in front of the cart

What IS teacher leadership?

The Teacher Leader Model Standards attempt to create some working level of this concept with seven domains, including teachers as collaborators, researchers, learners, facilitators, data analysts, outreach and community specialists, and advocates.

But what would Florida teacher leaders say when asked to define teacher leadership? I posed the question to a group of emerging and current teacher leaders at the University of South Florida—St. Petersburg’s Teachers as Leaders Institute. Here’s how they replied.

·      Teacher leadership is educating our youth at the highest level, being a model teacher for others to look to, and being passionate about what you do.

·      Collaboration of professional learning.

·      Setting examples.

·      Being a motivator.

·      Keeping kids’ futures in mind.

·      Mobilization of improvement and expansion of professional teaching and learning.

·      Teacher leadership is having a thirst for continuous improvement and knowledge and modeling learned strategies!

·      Modeling and guiding colleagues in best practices.

·      Teachers sharing their expertise to inform policy makers before decisions are made.

·      Someone who is willing to advocate for the teachers and students.

·      A leadership catalyst.

·      A strong understanding of student needs.

·      Bringing out the strengths in all teachers.

·      Being an advocate for classroom teachers.

·      Teacher leadership is being held accountable for learning.

·      Teachers that leads students to success.

·      Guiding and encouraging.

·      Setting directions for student learning.

·      Practical instructional leadership in and out of the classroom.

·      Mentoring and creating headway for collaboration.

·      Someone who uses their knowledge of a subject or strategy to educate others.

·      Sharing information and ideas with colleagues.

·      Ongoing professional learning and collaboration.

·      Contagious. The fire that lights transformation.

·      Emerging, bold, and brave!

·      Putting the horse back in front of the cart.

But what if we think broader? What if we go deeper and more definitive?

Better yet, what if we elevate the profession to the degree that the words become synonymous, where it’s repetitive to say the words: teacher leader?

Related categories: ,
  • Lynn Baber

    No wonder there’s a problem

    Just a comment from a red-headed person passionate about worthy leadership. There is, of course, no single accepted definition of leadership, but if this list is an indication it’s little wonder there are problems in our schools. I don’t mean any disrespect, but from the community side of education it appears that the last thing bureaucrats and admistrators want is for teachers to truly BE authentic and worthy leaders. I expect the definition of leader in this setting may be something quite unfamiliar to leaders in less restrictive professions.

    Best wishes on your challenge!

  • Chaney Mosley

    Excellent topic that needs progressing

    There are two paradigms of thought on teachers leadership – teacher as leader in the classroom and/or teacher as leader of peers.  The larger and most documented school of thought on teacher leadership relates to the later – teachers as leaders of peers.  I would argue, however, that a more intentional focus on developing the leadership skills of teachers as leaders in the classroom would yield higher achievement for students.  Much leadership theory can be put into practice in a classroom…so here’s a question:  How do we instill leadership skills in our teachers so that they can lead their students to increased learning, greater achievement, and ultimately success?


    I’m a traditionally trained educator from a four year university and not an alumni of Teach for America; however, the Teach for America Teacher Leadership framework is an excellent model for what being a leader in the classroom looks like.