Guest post by Brent Rowland
Do you have a handful of rock star teachers who are your go-to people, so you keep going to them over, and over, and over?
Imagine finding that just-right leadership spot for all of your teachers—that place where school needs match teacher interest. What would that do to connect them to the school’s mission, distribute leadership, and develop teacher capacity?
Imagine no longer, but take a step to make it a reality at your school. With the generous support of the Wallace Foundation, NASSP, and NAESP, a group of your colleagues—principals from urban districts across the country—convened four times over two years to develop tools to increase teacher leadership in your building and see the effects on school climate. They interviewed district leaders, colleagues, and national experts to define principals’ needs around principal leadership, and to identify research and theory that could best shape effective practice.
Follow this link to find the presentation they gave at the National Principals Conference in July. The presentation is full of tools and resources to help you plan teacher-leadership opportunities, identify the right teachers for the opportunity, develop teacher leaders with training modules, and reflect with your teacher leader on the experience.
The Opportunity to Lead planning tool leads you to think about the purpose of the teacher-leader opportunity, how it fits the school’s mission and vision, results you want, characteristics of the right teacher for the job, training that the teacher may require, how the outcomes will be assessed, and how the teacher-leader might be compensated.
The Identify section brings together tools to help you and the teacher identify strengths and interests that lead to a good fit in the right opportunity. Tools include a teacher self-assessment that examines working with adult learners, collaboration, communication, and knowledge of content and pedagogy, as well as a model application you can revise for teacher leader positions in your school.
Teacher leadership opportunities should grow teachers and build capacity, and the Develop section does that. The five learning modules that make up Develop can be used for faculty meetings, PLCs, or teacher self-study. They ground teachers in adult learning theory and motivation to help them make the shift from pedagogy to andragogy (teaching adults).
The module on facilitating meetings guides teacher leaders to prepare for their first meeting with the participant in mind as they build an agenda that incorporates collaboration, time stamps, activities, follow-through, and a clear connection to the organization’s purpose and mission. The module also includes an introduction to use of structures and protocols to help peer groups collaborate and discuss even tricky topics, along with links to protocols they can adapt.
Third and fourth modules combine tools for conflict resolution and problem-solving to help the teacher leader navigate issues that may arise when she begins interacting with colleagues in different ways a result of her new role and enhanced functions.
Finally, the fifth module digs into mentoring, helping teachers reflect on the mentors that made a difference to them, understand different ways to mentor, and create a calendar of mentoring activities for the year.
The Reflect component gives the principal and teacher leader a tool to talk about the leadership experience and ways to improve future leadership experiences.
What gets in the way of growing teacher leaders in your building? Which tools will be most useful to you as you plant teacher leaders in the rich environment of your building and nurture their development to help your school climate bloom?
Brent Rowland, Wallace Principal Pipeline Project 2015-17. Brent is principal of Grissom Elementary in Tulsa, OK, and past president of Tulsa’s principal association. Along with 10 other principals and facilitator Nancy Phenis-Bourke, Brent presented, “Cultivating School Climate, Growing Teacher Leadership,” at the 2017 National Principals Conference.