Wednesday, February 11, 2009

bill ferriter on teacher leadership

Well, there you go. Yesterday I mentioned Bill Ferriter as a thoughtful commentator on all things related to teacher leadership, and today he rewards us with reflections about what teacher leadership looks like in action.

His post is framed around a speech he'll be giving soon to a group of teachers who recently earned National Board certification. To help them chart their professional paths, Bill offers his own definition of what it means to be a teacher leader, a definition developed over "the better part of the past 12 years stumbling through the professional dark." The short version first:

Teacher leaders are practicing educators who are committed to driving

And the expanded version (emphases mine):

For me, teacher leadership started by simply engaging my colleagues
in meaningful conversations
about teaching and learning. I figured that it was impossible to drive change unless we had some real transparency around what it was that we were doing with students.

Teacher leadership probably also means supporting new colleagues, don't you
think? No matter how good university education programs are, nothing can really prepare you for this gig! Driving change means lending a hand to the teachers on
our hallway who need us the most.

And I reckon that driving change requires a deep and meaningful understanding of current practices, too. Teacher
leaders, then, are constantly researching and reading about effective
instruction. They've got an almost unsettling fear of stagnation!

Driving change also requires a willingness to raise your
a bit. Teacher leaders are always willing to speak up
in faculty and team meetings to lend guidance or expertise.
They're presenting at conferences and finding new ways to use
digital tools like blogs and wikis to share ideas and resources with the world.

But most importantly, driving change means having a steadfast
belief that reform rests in our hands. Teacher leaders don't stand around patiently waiting for others to take action. Instead, they're always acting.

You can take those points to the bank. Better yet, take them back to your school.


Jim from MN said...

To me, a key sentence here is "Driving change means lending a hand to the teachers on our hallway who need us the most." What was that stat about the percent of teachers who leave the profession in their first 2-3 years? Teacher leaders must use their magic to lead both the living and the dead and everyone else in-between under their sphere of influence.

Bill Ferriter said...

Hey Scott,

Glad that my post resonated with you. Sorry it took so long to stop by and jump in the conversation. Your link didn't appear in Technorati and I'm just starting to play with Google Blog Search.

One of the key points that I think needs to be made around teacher leadership is that teachers need to find their area of passion to make a real difference.

For me, that's NOT mentoring new teachers! I'm too much of a loner for that----I don't have the right kind of DNA to be supportive and caring.

(How's that for pessimistic!)

But what I am is a good writer who is motivated by policy. Using that criteria, I've made my mark as a teacher leader by blogging my brains out and trying to blend what I know about the classroom with what I know about policy (and policymakers!).

My efforts have been successful for a few reasons. First (and probably most importantly), I'm motivated by writing and policy, so my efforts are sustainable. I'm willing to invest effort into continued leadership because I'm leading in an area that I care about.

Had I chosen another area for my leadership efforts, I would have gotten sick of the work a lot sooner and given up completely!

Second, my passion for what I'm doing means that I can make real change---and see tangible evidence of that real change----in areas that I care about. That kind of concrete reinforcement is essential for continuing to plug forward.

The saddest moments for me is when I see teacher leaders jump feet first into tasks that aren't right for them. They're miserable and ineffective---and before long they give up.

Does this make any sense to anyone?

Jim from MN said...

Bill is correct--too often, teacher leaders are tasked with the wrong job at the wrong time for the wrong reasons Or they have the wrong skill set) to accomplish tough tasks. Time, effort, and money is wasted on tackling that "next big thing" an administrator sees at a conference breakout session. Also wasted is good teacher leader "capital" that could be spent in better places where real and meaningful (deep) change is possible. The kind of change that impacts teaching and student achievement.