“Developing teachers as leaders is paramount to creating a positive school climate in which all students are valued. Teachers not only control the learning environment of their classroom, but they also dramatically influence the school culture and relationships with students and parents.” (Stiles, Educational Leadership)
I recently read a wonderful article in Educational Leadership entitled “Inside-Out Teacher Leadership” by Jean Stiles. This article really hit home with me because that is exactly what we are trying to encourage at my school with our activities this year. Empowered teachers in a school are truly a force to be reckoned with 🙂 .
The article cites several ways to foster the growth of teacher-leaders within the school:
- Ignite passion
- Begin with questions
- Shift assignments and offer support
- Open the campus/ classrooms
- Hold teachers’ learning walks
In other words, light a fire under a group of teachers, assess where your school is and where you want it to be, encourage openness and collaboration, allow flexibility, and watch the climate of the school change. Yes! All of these are great ideas~ I have personally begun to see a lot of this happening in my school as well. In my opinion, igniting the passion has to be the single most important avenue to bring about major changes in any school…. If the teachers aren’t “on board” and believe in something, then you might as well forget it happening on any large scale. 🙂 Teachers aren’t really that different from students are they? Sometimes, I think we forget that and just expect adults to comply because they are told to do so.
The assessment of the current condition of the school culture or climate is also a vital part of enacting any change on a large scale. After all, how can you know how far you’ve grown, if you don’t know where you were at the beginning? 🙂 My school is in the midst of transitioning to a culture of more openness and collaboration. It’s hard for a high school, but I definitely see that we are making strides. 🙂 Some of the things we have put into place this year have included: common planning twice per month during a duty-free lunch time (they can order out this day & eat somewhere other than the cafeteria); all the teachers of the same subject also eat lunch together every day in the cafeteria; vertical alignment time 3 times per year with every teacher K-12 of the same subject; and the establishment of a cross-disciplinary professional learning team that meets once per month for a book study.
All of these things could not be possible without an administration that is committed to seeing major changes within the school. That, in itself, is the match to ignite passions within teacher-leaders that will bring about real change in a school. Teachers need to see their “leaders” lead by doing…. and not by just giving them orders. Support is key… but, support is not without some drawbacks. When too much “help” is flooding the school from the outside, teachers feel overwhelmed …. The danger of this is— the passionate fire to make real changes becomes replaced with the desire to comply and conform to what the outside “experts” say or suggest. Too much extra “help” can also cause feelings of inadequacy. Teachers begin to think they aren’t doing their job well enough since they have someone from the outside agencies critiquing them. Next thing you know, the teachers who were passionate to make the school a better place now struggle with self-confidence. It’s really hard to believe you can make a difference in the whole school when you aren’t sure if you’re even making a difference in your own classroom. 😦 In order for real, lasting change to happen in a school, it has to be lead by the people directly responsible … the teachers. It’s just my opinion, but I believe you should keep the outside influences to a minimum and put your trust in the teachers who have the most at stake. The road to making changes in a school’s culture or climate is very hard… but it sure will be worth it in the end. 🙂