180 days of learning

180 days of learning

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Teacher Leadership

December 6, 2012

Teacher Leadership

I have come to believe that the best way to improve student learning is through effective teacher leadership in our schools.  In the book Awakening the Giant:  Helping Teachers Develop as Leaders, the author makes the assertion that “Neither legislative mandates, nor central office directives, nor principal-initiated projects will result in the major change needed.”  This statement rings so true in today’s educational environment.  Due to the lack of student engagement and antiquated practices, schools are feeling pressure to change.  We’re also being held accountable for student acquisition of low level skills on standardized assessments while we all know(and our kids know) they deserve more.  They deserve to learn in rich environments where they can construct their own knowledge in classrooms that mirror the technological advances made in the last few years.

What can we do?

I believe that we need to focus on developing teacher leaders as we also reward and recognize them.  One obstacle is the pressure teacher leaders feel when they lead.  There is tremendous pressure to fit in and to not draw attention to ourselves.  I think this is part of our DNA.  Educators are humble people who  prefer an egalitarian structure.  However, at this moment in time, we need to develop a system that promotes leadership within our teaching ranks.  We need our teachers to serve as instructional leaders, staff developers, and peer coaches.  Most importantly, we need our teacher leaders to learn.  The heart of leadership is learning and collaborating.

Tremendous Opportunity

We have a huge opportunity in Plymouth to do this right.  With the cooperation of the Plymouth Education Association, we were able to include the creation of career ladders into our master contract.  By contract, teachers can move into formal roles of leadership (in addition to the many informal roles played by many).  We’re currently learning about teacher leadership so we can create a Teacher Leadership program that provides the leadership training, direction, and structure to facilitate teacher leadership in all of our buildings.  In addition to studying a lot, we are also in the process of writing a grant that would help move us along.  Regardless of the outcome of our grant writing, we are going to make this a priority throughout this year…and I can say that I have never been more excited about an opportunity in my 10 years as an administrator.  I recognize that as administrators we play the role of manager and instructional leader.  The role of instructional leader can be very hard to play at times when our administrators are not in the classroom on a daily basis.  There is no “one-size fits all” approach to teaching and learning; therefore, our schools need the outstanding instructional leadership and peer coaching that our best teacher leaders can help provide.

My name is Dan Funston and I’m the Assistant Superintendent for Plymouth Community Schools.  I served as a social studies teacher at Norwell High School and Norwell Middle School for 6 years before becoming an administrator 10 years ago.  

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