There Is No “How To” For Teacher Leadership

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the New Teacher Center conference in San Francisco, CA to discuss teacher leadership. It felt like forever since I used the words “teacher leader” to describe myself, but people have no idea what to do with me since I am in the classroom with a full program and am mentoring and speaking out about different ideas in teaching. Thus, teacher leader.

Most of my evaluations for my teacher leadership workshop were sterling, surprising because I had to follow folks like Dr. Baruti Kafele, Jeff Duncan-Andrade, and Elena Aguilar, all of whom have solid reputations on the Left Coast in their own right. It must have been the GIFs, but it could also have been the time I left for folks to think through and develop their own plans for teacher leadership within their tables. Yet, two or three folks brought my rating down on one of the dimensions for not actually talking about how-to become a teacher leader.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t mad. By eliciting reflection questions for everyone, and giving folks time to call out some of the pressing issues with teacher leadership (like when the rest of the staff doesn’t believe in that teacher leader), I thought I had done better than 95% of other workshops I had been a part of. Yet, I forgot to tell people exactly how to do it.

Now that I think about it, I don’t have a step-by-step guide for becoming a teacher leader, either.

It’s difficult. Most schools develop teacher leadership through content area, like the head of a department or someone who takes the minutes in a grade-level meeting. Some schools might have one or two people who teach part-time and work on curriculum or technology, but those tend to be more progressive than most districts’ standards.

Most people only go to teacher leader groups when they’ve already felt that quality in them or they don’t feel like they have a choice but to lead without leaving the classroom.

Plus, teacher leadership, like anything, depends on the school the teacher is in. Therefore, if the school isn’t compatible with the latest teacher leadership trends, then teacher leadership won’t work. How that environment is built will determine what the environment needs, and what that environment needs determines how and how well the teacher leads.

That’s the long and short of it. With so many blueprints out there, can there only be one?