By COURTNEY BROWN
The term teacher leader has gained momentum in recent years, and while we believe that teachers are always leaders — in their own classrooms, schools, and in society — the role of a teacher leader can be hard to define and tricky to inhabit.
Teacher leaders work in a range of supportive roles in the the intersecting space between their fellow teachers and administrators leading departments or grade level teams, facilitating professional development sessions, and serving on committees for initiatives or projects. Understanding and bridging the needs of both administrators and teachers often demands new perspectives and mindsets, as well as a broad skill set.
For over 10 years, we’ve been designing promising practices to support individuals who inhabit this multifaceted role. This year, we’re partnering with an innovative team of administrators in the North Plainfield district of New Jersey to develop their very own cohort of teacher leaders. Through the creation of customized workshops, we’re offering the North Plainfield team a mix of relevant theories and hands-on, practical applications, as well as a supportive collaborative space — a community of practice in which everyone can safely share their struggles and successes, explore ideas, practice skills, and offer or receive feedback.
We examine the theoretical component by including a review of adult learning theory in each of our sessions. By discussing theory, individuals have time to investigate how they might manage the move from teaching students to facilitating and coaching their colleagues. Our discussions then lead to an application of this theory, allowing each team member to connect it to real-world scenarios.
As they shift from theory to practice, our partners often explore the complexities of their teacher leader roles by utilizing a protocol for structured conversations. Two of our favorites, success and dilemma protocols, are simple, yet effective ways for colleagues or small groups to support each other in working through challenges, celebrating promising practices, and identifying next steps.
The development of confident, capable teacher leaders is an essential component of creating productive teams. Are you a current or aspiring teacher leader, looking to enhance your capabilities? Check out our Critical Incidents workshop series, designed to help educators identify the foundations of teacher leadership and build skills in facilitation, working with teams, and leading projects.