Resources for Teacher Leadership
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Add a comment. Choose three goals for improvement over the course of a year—one categorized as easy, one short-term, and one long-term. The easy goal should be something that is a quick win, reached relatively easily and visibly. This kind of goal is important because it is a gesture to staff that you are serious in your improvement efforts.
For example, administrators at Falls Church High School in Virginia responded to students' concern that they did not have sufficient input by selecting an unused locker away from the main office, painting it red, and encouraging students to submit their thoughts on slips of paper through the vents. A short-term goal is one that you would work on over the course of a marking period nine weeks or so and that requires more contemplation and planning. For example, one administrator we know received complaints from teachers that he was not visible enough in the school.
He began scheduling time into his calendar to be visible during class changes in different parts of the building as well as during instructional periods.
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The long-term goal involves more work and bigger changes, but its payoff will benefit all. For example, a colleague of ours sets a goal called "Flip Five. Verbalizing your intentions to others not only provides you with support from colleagues but also keeps you accountable and demonstrates an open and sincere desire to improve. If you fail to do what you say you will, you run the risk of being seen as insincere. Once you have identified your goals and plan of action, you should keep them at the forefront of your mind.
Continually check your actions against your game plan to see if they fit. If so, pat yourself on the back; if not, make adjustments either to your game plan or to your actions.
It is also helpful to post goals where you will see them daily—at home, in your car, or in your office, for example—just as you might with personal goals. You could even write your goals as pop-up messages that greet you when you turn on your computer. Finally, just as you do for your staff members, keep up your morale and motivation by celebrating your victories and milestones. As a school leader, you will only be as strong and effective as those who surround and support you. Too many leaders succumb to the lure of being a lone visionary or hero. Some adopt this leadership style because it is how they were trained or "how things have always been done.
Unfortunately, maintaining a power monopoly of top-down leadership will not lead to much improvement because, quite simply, people don't like being told what to do. Most teachers want to share in the responsibility of decision making. When you welcome this kind of participation, you confirm that you value your teachers and their contributions. Leaders who try to effect change single-handedly are often accused of being autocratic or dictatorial, or of being out of touch with the faculty and its needs and challenges. And in these schools, the leadership positions that do exist are usually filled with managers who merely perform the daily operations needed to maintain a team, grade level, or department.
Their skills and potential remain largely untapped. Distribution of leadership is crucial. Leaders cannot be everything to everybody all the time. When they attempt to, they only overwhelm themselves and others. Teachers "cannot expect much from a leader mired in chores that should have been left to well-chosen teammates" Gardner, , p. As Gardner notes, "No leader has all the skills—and certainly not the time—to carry out all the complex tasks of contemporary leadership" p. The various demands and stresses of leadership can fatigue even the most effective leaders at times.
Marzano, Waters, and McNulty further point out that "leading a school requires a complex array of skills. How does one reconcile the fact that effective school leadership requires 21 responsibilities but that the mastery of all 21 is beyond the capacity of most people? Effective leaders know where they need to go, but they also know that they must invite others to assist in the journey. Education leaders can increase their efficacy by creating shared leadership teams that make strategic use of staff members' special skills.
Marzano defines a shared leadership team as "the principal and other administrators operating as key players working with a dedicated group of classroom teachers" p. Such teams build a strong support system that moves the school forward more easily than a single leader can. The following sections will help you get started. Creating a shared leadership team is an important first step toward neutralizing the problems of a vertical leadership structure. As active learners, the members of the team are "highly committed to the general well-being of the school. Members share a 'culture of commitment' regarding the school" Marzano et al.
Ideally, this collection of administrators and teacher leaders meets at least once a month to identify academic areas in need of improvement and to initiate and implement strategies to improve student achievement. The leadership team is not a vehicle for the micromanagement of the school; rather, it is the driving force behind change and a necessary component in ensuring the school's success. In most cases, the team's discussions and activities should be replicated in the members' grade-level, team, or department meetings, an example of turnaround training.
If your school has no leadership team, you can increase capacity by assembling a leadership team of administrators, department chairs, and team leaders. You can choose any name that fits your team's stated purpose—for example, the Instructional Council, the School Leadership Team, or the Instructional Leadership Team. If you plan to change the team's responsibilities from previous years or are otherwise planning to give the team a fresh start, you may want to change the current name. It can be interesting to hear how staff members who are not team members think of these teams.
Staff members who can't see a clearly defined purpose or measurable results will probably view the leadership team as a club of the privileged few who have little impact on their daily professional lives. Thus, an effective team earns staff respect by clearly articulating its vision and purpose throughout the school. Leadership team meetings should focus on instruction, assessment, and other areas related to academic achievement. Anything else is extraneous. To ensure that the team's practices and processes are transparent, a participant should record minutes of the meeting. After team members have reviewed and accepted the minutes, they can share the notes with the rest of the school with the exception of more private or sensitive information by putting them on a network directory or in a public folder.
If this technology is not available in your building, print and distribute the notes to the staff or have them housed in a convenient, central location, such as where teacher mailboxes are kept. You will find that sharing minutes will build respect and trust for the leadership team and its purpose. Change people by modeling the desired behaviors. Recording and distributing notes from meetings is one easy example.
Jim Collins has informed us that "the old adage 'people are our greatest asset' turns out to be wrong. People are not your greatest asset. The right people are" p. He urges leaders to make sure that the right people are "on the bus" p. To achieve sustainable success, you must have the right people in the right leadership positions. Not every leader can build a team from scratch, however.
If you are working with a preexisting leadership team, you might have inherited some passengers, to continue Collins's metaphor.
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You then need to determine who is on the bus, who should be on the bus, and how to get others to disembark at the next stop if need be. If your school already has a shared leadership team, take a careful inventory of the membership. You need to identify key players, supporters, and detractors.
Begin by asking yourself the following questions: Who are the team members? Why are they considered leaders? Are they considered leaders just because of their positions or titles? How were they originally given leadership positions? Based on what criteria? Do they really lead and have followers, or do they just belong to a team and possess a leadership title? If they don't have followers, how can they lead? Have they reached their leadership capacity? If so, is that a detriment to the team?
The "powerhouse" of the leadership team can be found in two tiers. Tier one includes The principal. The assistant principal s. The athletic director. The staff development coordinator. The dean of students. The administrative intern. The school resource officer. Tier two includes Department chairs. Team leaders. Lead teachers. The instructional coach. The technology specialist. A guidance counselor. The activities coordinator. Aspiring teacher leaders. Although your leadership team does not need to mirror this template exactly, these people form the base of the decision makers in your school, with the exception of the school resource officer SRO.
SROs are local law enforcement agents who serve as liaisons between schools and the police. They establish a presence in schools to deter infractions and criminal behavior, forge relationships with students and staff, and actively work with school leaders to ensure a safe learning environment for students and staff. Because SROs can have a direct influence on the quality of instruction, we recommend that they participate in meetings, although they are not voting members of the leadership team and should not be expected to remain for the meetings' entire duration.
If your school has a safety specialist, then it would also be wise to extend to him or her the responsibility of attendance. We break the leadership team into two tiers because there will be times when it is necessary or desirable to assemble only the first tier. Overall, however, the two tiers should work in conjunction. The members of this team act as leaders of the leader: they will help you monitor the pulse of your school's culture, strengthen your leadership through ownership, and advise on and implement change.
Teachers sometimes feel threatened by their neighboring classroom teachers, especially when those neighbors excel. This feeling of threat is one of the principal causes of teacher isolation. Often, the situation is no different for leaders. We have been in too many schools that have a good principal but mediocre supporting leadership. This deficit could be due to a lack of training and coaching, but many principals actually prefer this situation because it safely preserves their ego and pride. If the principal is strong, this situation may not have a particularly negative effect on the team's or the school's overall efficacy.
But what if the school has a mediocre principal? Consider how difficult it will be just to maintain school affairs, much less provide strong leadership. As John Gardner notes, leaders should choose high-caliber colleagues, but "all too often they recruit individuals who have as their prime qualities an unswerving loyalty to the boss" p. Gardner further explains that "what might have been a leadership team becomes, all too often, a rule clique or circle of sycophants" p. Although loyalty is admirable, it should hardly be the top consideration in making hiring decisions.
When we discuss leaders surrounding themselves with equally strong or stronger leaders, we can't help but think of Joe Torre, the highly successful former manager of the New York Yankees, who captured a World Series title in his first year at their helm. During the baseball season in particular, he found himself working with one of the most talented coaching staffs ever assembled.
Effective leaders are secure leaders. Each of the coaches—from the bench coach to the pitching coach—could easily have been the manager for another professional team. Instead, they chose to work with Torre. In return, Torre, never threatened by the immense talent that surrounded him, shared his leadership with his coaching staff.
Relying on the coaches' input and instincts, Torre guided the team to success during an injury-plagued season. His distribution of leadership and professionalism over the years helped him bring out the best in his coaches and in his team. An insightful, decisive leader who demonstrated an uncanny knack for making the right decisions, he will be remembered as one of the most successful managers in baseball history.
Principals also have the potential to be remembered as effective leaders if they display the same courage and build a cadre of strong leaders to work with. This is a strategy that should be used only in extreme cases. Although an ill school culture or ineffective leaders may make it necessary for you to consider this option, you should keep in mind that it could have a detrimental effect on morale and climate. We know one principal who saw the need to eliminate complacency in his large suburban school, so he removed all teachers from their leadership positions and asked them to reapply.
Although he was correct in assessing that something needed to change, this drastic move caused already-low staff morale to plummet even further. That said, you should not necessarily steer away from this option. You are doing this for other teachers, not for yourself, so some staff members might even appreciate such action. Starting from scratch might be necessary; you just need to find a way to sell it to the rest of the staff.
You might consider addressing your intentions at a faculty meeting as a means of fostering leadership growth, especially if you have leaders who have held their positions for a number of years. You might explain that people who sit in leadership positions for too long may be unwittingly inhibiting others' professional growth.
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Finally, if you do have just one or two leaders whom you would like to replace, this process helps you avoid accusations of bias. More selling and less telling of new strategies will win buy-in. Your school's shared leadership team plays a pivotal role in effecting powerful, sustainable change. You should have high expectations of your leaders. The members of the leadership team are responsible for monitoring and adjusting their departments' or teams' instructional programs; for articulating these instructional programs to students and parents; for assisting in the selection of teachers and team members; for coaching teachers; for serving as liaisons between their teachers and the subject coordinators and administrators; and for managing allocated resources.
We have drawn on our extensive experiences in numerous schools to define and describe five main leadership areas for teacher leaders. The following sections will clarify expectations for anyone in a leadership role, including you to some extent. Because teacher leaders and leadership team members are sometimes unsure of what their positions entail, each section contains a bulleted list of expectations that can serve as a guide and an evaluative tool.
Of course, you should discuss these items with your team members before adopting them as leadership standards for your school. You will notice that there is some overlap among the items in the different sections because seldom do leadership duties fit into tidy little boxes. If you talk the talk and expect others to walk that talk, be sure to be willing to lead the way. One of the main responsibilities of team members, instructional leadership is key in improving academic achievement.
Although this role does have some managerial aspects, knowledge of instructional strategies, current research, and literature as well as the ability to apply data are imperative. Leadership team members Serve on the shared leadership team. Assume a main role in the development of their respective subject areas' school improvement plan.
Meet periodically with the principal and the area supervisor of instruction to discuss program and instructional matters.
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Establish vision and direction for their respective departments. Coordinate school-level diagnostic pre-tests and post-tests. Mine and use assessment data to develop goals and action plans for their departments. Hold departmental meetings to discuss instructional concerns of their departments and the school. Seek ways to involve students meaningfully in their education program. Adapt the county program to the needs of the local school community. Help plan the best program for each instructional group by adapting the curriculum to the needs of the individuals.
Review department members' midterm and final examinations for consistency and rigor and provide constructive feedback. Work with the department, the administration, the guidance department, and other academic and support departments in developing the schedule and placing students in appropriate classes. Assist classroom teachers in classroom organization and management; in locating, selecting, and securing instructional materials; and in interpreting test results to assess each student's abilities and performance. Conduct self-evaluation, self-improvement, and evaluation of programs.
Develop plans for daily work as well as long-range planning. Plan for the most productive use of paraprofessionals, aides, and volunteers. You should meet regularly with your instructional leaders to Help them identify powerful instructional strategies and effective elements of lesson plans. Share what you look for when you conduct classroom observations. Discuss how assessments should look, how often teachers should be assessing students, and how assessments should be weighted.
Discuss how they can support novice teachers by observing them, having them observe other teachers, demonstrating instructional strategies for them, and providing opportunities for them to practice these techniques. Just as you help your teacher leaders grow, they in turn must help their teachers grow. Establishing goals and long-range plans and promoting professional development are essential responsibilities of any leader. Leadership team members Help plan staff development activities. Develop departmental goals that are consistent with school, school system, and county goals.
Adjust programs as necessary to meet changing demands. Assist teachers in developing long-range plans. Develop a professional library or set of resources for their respective departments. Help interview and select prospective teachers for their departments. Stimulate an awareness of research and curriculum development in their subject areas. Help teachers identify the most effective ways of using courses of study and instructional materials. Play a key role in matching new teachers to mentors.
Keep informed of new trends and programs in their fields of responsibility. Participate in inservice activities related to their duties. Act as members of relevant review and evaluation committees. Assist in writing curriculum materials. Confer frequently with members of their departments on an informal basis. To help your leaders develop their programs and promote teachers' professional growth, you should Look at standardized test data with your leaders to see where their teams or departments are excelling and where they are falling short with certain objectives or strands.
Help them brainstorm staff development sessions for their departments that would address problem areas. Assist in designing "getting to know you" activities for mentors and their mentees as well as mini-workshops for the novice teachers that address classroom management, building responsibilities, and lesson plans.
This area is more managerial in nature than the other areas, but effectively carrying out administrative and clerical functions is an important part of leadership. Organizational skills and the ability to complete tasks and meet deadlines in a timely fashion are crucial. Leadership team members Assist the principal in providing overall leadership and management of the school's instructional program.
Provide the school's leadership with meeting agendas and minutes. Monitor and make use of data pertinent to student achievement. Coordinate departmental housekeeping and clerical duties. Align the culture of their respective departments with the school culture set by the principal. Lead departmental team-building activities. Foster cooperative interpersonal relationships within the department. Keep classroom teachers informed on local school matters. Coordinate the use and maintain the care of equipment and materials.
Supervise the use of the clerical and instructional aides assigned to the department. Greet, orient, and monitor substitute teachers, providing support as needed. Arrange emergency class coverage when necessary. Pre-approve all departmental transactions e. To support your leaders in this area, you should Discuss with your leaders what makes meetings effective or ineffective and talk about how to facilitate a meeting; most teacher leaders have never received training or guidance in this area.
Share practices that will help them increase their departments' productivity, such as creating an agenda, taking minutes, and identifying leadership roles present in their departmental meetings. Introduce them to team-building activities to use throughout the year to develop trust and improve climate. Show them the school's master calendar and explain how their departments' instructional programs fit in with the overall operations of the school.
Communicating concerns and expectations and relaying information to pertinent and vested parties are a crucial part of leadership. As a liaison, leadership team members Meet with the principal and the director of instruction to share and discuss concerns related to their instructional programs. Keep the school administration and the relevant area and county supervisors informed on departmental matters of curriculum and instruction.
Join team and department members in parent conferences when appropriate. Meet regularly with subject supervisors. Your responsibilities to your liaisons are to Coach your leaders on how to mediate and interact in a parent conference, especially if it involves a complaint about one of their teachers. Stress to them the importance of timely communication. Share examples of memos for communication and documentation purposes. Advise them on the most effective ways to communicate information to department members while not overloading them. Leadership team members must lead by example. Their scope of professionalism is not limited to what happens in front of the chalkboard; the way they conduct themselves in carrying out their duties and in interacting with colleagues is also important.
Leadership team members Model expectations and appropriate behavior for department members. Arrive punctually to work and meetings. Display a professional appearance. Communicate in a professional manner. Forge and maintain collegial relationships across the school. Fulfill obligations and responsibilities in an effective and expeditious manner.
To help your leaders grow professionally, you should Share time management tips and explain ways you prioritize and juggle tasks. Attend meetings led by your leaders and meet with them afterward to discuss their verbal and nonverbal interactions and communication with their staff. Invite them to accompany you to functions where you demonstrate how you connect and interact with different people in different positions. The descriptions of these five leadership areas will help your teacher leaders understand what you expect of them. In addition, they provide you with rich material to help your teacher leaders excel.
Consider using regular leadership team meetings as job-embedded professional development opportunities. If you set aside time at each meeting to focus on certain areas, you will nurture leadership while modeling expectations for what should happen in department and team meetings. Solicit input and agreement on your school's leadership team standards, then clearly and consistently communicate and enforce the expectations.
For these sessions, consider pulling articles related to some of the expectations for the team to review and discuss. You might model some of the expectations and provide examples or conduct activities pertaining to them. You could also enlist the help of your leaders in providing training. For example, for the instructional leadership expectation of "mining and using assessment data to develop goals and action plans for the department," a knowledgeable team member could teach the rest of the team how to "slice" and apply data in this way.
These members would then be able to train the staff in their departments and grade-level teams on how to use data, set goals, and create plans based on those goals. As we mentioned earlier, leaders cannot be everything to everyone all the time. You should rely on your teacher leaders to help you whenever possible. In the following three sections, we describe ways your teacher leaders can take ownership of supporting your school's mission and fostering academic achievement. Good leaders don't just influence people; they monitor them as well.
Mike Schmoker recommends that "principals and teacher leaders meet with teacher teams by month or quarter to review and discuss evidence of what is actually being taught" p. Simply mapping out curriculum is not enough. Even with maps or sequence guides provided by district-level offices and textbook companies, there is still a good chance that teams and departments display a bit of what Kim Marshall calls "curriculum anarchy" As much as we encourage teachers to collaborate with one another, the bottom line is that once the bell rings, they are alone in their classrooms and able to teach whatever they like.
Other than a couple of classroom visits each year, administrators don't have a full picture of what is actually going on. This "'don't ask, don't tell' culture" , p. The notion of monitoring instruction and curriculum coverage may greatly disturb some teachers; they will exclaim, "We're professionals, so we should be trusted to do our jobs right! However, the stark reality is that today's stakes are high.
Conducting curriculum reviews is an important way to "ensure that standards are actually taught " Schmoker, , p. As Schmoker argues, "In many schools, such reviews would have more impact than all the initiatives we have ever launched, combined. Leadership team members should conduct these reviews quarterly, meeting with their respective teams and departments to review evidence that teachers are delivering the approved curriculum. Whereas most leaders focus on data results , curriculum reviews force them to examine delivery and content process.
Your leadership team members are your content experts, so they are the natural ones to conduct these reviews. How do you know your teachers are regularly teaching and doing what is best for students?
Therefore, during the curriculum reviews, team or department members should bring not just test results and other data but also lesson plans, projects, and assessments. The teacher leaders should ask such questions as, "How did your students fare on this assignment, and why do you think that is? Leadership team members should review grade books and lesson plans, but they also need to reassure teachers that these reviews are neither punitive nor evaluative in nature although they could be used as evidence to support an unsatisfactory evaluation of a consistently underperforming teacher.
Although the obvious purpose of these reviews is to monitor what is occurring in teachers' classrooms, the reviews also provide struggling teachers with opportunities for collaboration and support. Then, at leadership team meetings, teacher leaders can discuss issues from the curriculum reviews, assess their teams' progress, brainstorm ways to refine the curriculum review process, and keep the administration updated on what is occurring throughout the building.
Some might view this as micromanagement, but it is not. The leadership team and the administration are not telling teachers what to do; the curriculum guides determine that. Rather, they are simply ensuring that the right things are being done. Again, because your leadership team members are your instruction and content experts, you should tap into their knowledge base by having them perform classroom observations. In some schools, teachers are not used to being observed by teacher leaders, so they might demonstrate some initial resistance to this idea.
However, if you and your teacher leaders clearly explain that these observations are not in lieu of the formal observations that make up their evaluations, you should be able to allay their concerns. These observations indeed won't formally be factored into evaluations, but they will be another source of information for you.
They offer a cost-effective way of having another set of eyes and ears observing what is occurring in your school's classrooms, and they provide another resource for teachers who might need assistance. If a single leader cannot perform all the complex tasks necessary to lead a school, then he or she certainly won't be able to solve the plethora of problems that inevitably rise up alone.
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Instead, you should encourage and even require your leaders to actively engage in problem solving. Leaders should expect team members to bring not just their problems to the table but also their solutions , even if they aren't always viable. You can also demonstrate your faith and trust in your leaders by bringing your own problems to the team. Together, the team members bring a variety of leadership styles and strengths to the table, making the collaborative problem-solving process that much more effective.
As a leader, you have responsibilities to students and staff to maintain the health of the school and its culture. But you also have responsibilities to your leaders—your current ones as well as your future ones.