Uncovering teacher leadership

In their 2007 book from Corwin Press, editors Richard Ackerman and Sarah Mackenzie offer a large collection of essays aimed at Uncovering Teacher Leadership. This important and weighty book (416 pages), which includes thoughtful pieces by several members of the Teacher Leaders Network, is critiqued by TLN’er Susan Graham in the latest addition to our extensive collection of professional-book reviews.

Graham says the editors have “surface(d) knowledge found in research, in case histories, and in attributes that are embodied in the voices of teachers” to produce “a nuanced tool, a ‘what do you think’ book, that encourages teacher leaders or leaders of leaders to develop rather than implement leadership.”

Graham’s review begins:

Each year on the Fourth of July, after the fireworks are over, I have my annual viewing of the movie 1776. Each year I am surprised that William Danielson as John Adams moves me to tears as he stands in the bell tower and questions himself, asking “Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody see what I see?”

Being a teacher is really hard work. Being a teacher leader involves not only the hard work of teaching, but leadership adds an element of loneliness and self doubt to the equation. Sometimes it results in euphoria when we see ourselves as brave pioneers taking education where no man or woman has gone before. But some days it bring the gnawing fear that we are investing our hearts and lives in a self-deluding and futile quest.

In Uncovering Teacher Leadership: Essays and Voices from the Field, editors Richard Ackerman and Sarah Mackenzie understand this struggle and find a way to capture both an objective and a highly personal take on leadership.

Graham notes that each of the book’s five sections begins with a thematic introduction by the editors, and each section ends with questions for discussion, “making this an excellent choice for a Professional Learning Community group book study.”

Uncovering Teacher Leadership “provides case studies that put flesh on the bones of research and theory,” she says, “but it is the teacher voices…that leap from the pages and give life to this book. These are personal stories and reflections on success and failure, celebration and self doubt, fear and anticipation by teachers who live on the front lines.”

Through their selection of essays, Graham says, it’s clear that the editors understand that “while there are common threads and themes, teacher leadership in practice is specific to circumstances and individuals. How teachers lead will be determined by their skills, the needs of their setting, and the constraints of their personal and professional world.”

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