When I was a new principal I was not good at building teacher leadership capacity. In fact, when I first became a principal, this idea wasn’t even on my radar. I did not have a clue that it was my responsibility to help develop teacher leadership in my staff.
Fast forward to my work as a district level administrator and I see the error of my ways. Teacher leaders are the backbone of any long-lasting initiative.
Yes, we need building principals to build trust, set the vision, and help people see the purpose of any new initiative. But after the initial cheer-leading and encouragement, the work falls to teachers. The people with boots on the ground, sleeves rolled up, doing the work every day with students.
Teachers will more often look to their peers when they are knee-deep in a stressful new learning situation. Teachers will call their department chair, their PLC leader, their site technology support (though I love George Couros’ blog about moving away from this!), and/or the colleague who teaches next door to them to seek advice and support.
Administrators often encourage strong teachers, those with natural leadership abilities, to become administrators. That is often the only leadership option for many teachers. But not all teachers want to leave their classroom full-time, and we shouldn’t want all strong teacher leaders to leave teaching positions.
So what are we doing, as leaders, to build the capacity of the teacher leaders within our systems?
I’m currently leading a committee through the work of developing teacher leadership pathways. It’s exciting work because it’s never been done in a systematic way here, or anywhere else I’ve ever worked. We are exploring a number of different options to provide more purposeful support that will develop the capacity of teacher leaders.
Our goals are to enhance the leadership skills of teachers currently serving in some teacher leadership capacity, and to develop leadership skills in teachers not yet serving in such a role.
I’d love to hear what your system does to build teacher leadership capacity.