“You don’t need to be in a leadership position, to be a leader.” By Jill Thompson

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We need teacher leaders! Why? Teacher leaders are the ones that make change happen. They are the ones that understand the true problems happening in their classroom and school. They are the ones that improve learning and teaching practices with the goal of doing what is best for students which is increasing student learning and achievement. Below are ten ways I believe we can build teacher leaders based on my experience.

1. Let them model or co-teach showing best practices and allowing time to reflect on the experience. Too often principals let other teachers visit teachers but they don’t give them time to reflect on the experience and that is when the true learning occurs.

2. Have them provide Professional Development (PD) in an area they are strong and passionate about or send teacher leaders to pd and have them share what they learned. Too often we don’t use the resources and expertise that are in our school. We need to play to teachers strengths.

3. Let them mentor another teacher that is maybe a first year teacher or one that is struggling. Teaching is hard work. It is helpful to know you have another teachers support who is going through the same issues/challenges you are going through and not being judged.

4.  Build a culture of collaboration by creating Professional Learning Communities (PLC) for different topics to support teachers such as data teams. We learn best from each other and often times from what we are passionate about. Creating PLC’s that are based on topics teacher want  helps with culture and collaboration.

5. Let them try their innovative ideas you never know, it might just work and be the next big thing. I am lucky to have always have had a leader that lets me try new things. I have had some great ideas and some not so good ones, but either way I learned.  One of my best ideas was building a tutoring program for our school using volunteers. I called them ‘Washam Buddies’. The buddies were each paired up with a classroom teacher and came a few times a week to help  the students with their academic needs.

6. Create team leaders to facilitate the planning sessions and discussions about student data. Having a team-lead helps meetings run smoother and stay focused on the task.

7. Give them time to work out problems and to find solutions. The first attempt might not work but let them use the ‘failure’ as a learning opportunity.

8. Have teacher leaders run book studies and let them pick the book! The best book studies I have done have been run by other teachers.

9.  Recognize teacher leaders when they do something extraordinary. This just might motivate another teacher.

10. Give them time to research and be innovative. My old principal gave us what he called ‘innovate time’. He (or AP) would come to our classroom and teach a block. We would gain that time while they were teaching our class to research something we were interested in trying new in the classroom.

There are a lot of other ways we can build teacher leaders within our schools. I would love to hear your ideas too.

Other Resources:

Building Teacher Leadership Capacity through Educational Leadership Programs 

Building Teachers’ Capacity for Success: A Collaborative Approach for Coaches and School Leaders

Becoming a Teacher Leader

CTQ:  Center for Teaching Quality 

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Comments on: "10 Ways to Build Teacher Leaders" (9)

  1. “My old principal gave us what he called ‘innovate time’. He (or AP) would come to our classroom and teach a block. We would gain that time while they were teaching our class to research something we were interested in trying new in the classroom.”

    Now that is a great idea, even if only done 3-4 times a year. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Jill, thanks for being a teacher/leader in CMS and also across the state.

    As you know, building leadership capacity in elementary science by focusing on teachers as leaders, is a passion of mine. So I may have a go at adapting your ten tips to include elementary science examples.

    Since you referenced CTQ in your blog, I will assume you know about that leadership initiative. Have you looked at their Collabortory? I am a member of that group, although I have not yet posted anything as a blog.

    One of the sayings about leaders that I like is ” Leaders are people who know the way, show the way, and go the way”. You certainly do that in a BIG way in CMS.

    Wayne Fisher

  3. Teachers who assume the role as leaders, position themselves as collaborators and supporters to both the faculty and the administration.

  4. Another resource: Leader of Leaders by Collins & Portner

  5. […] 10 Ways to Build Teacher Leaders | Inside the classroom, outside the box! […]

  6. Instead of the mandatory one whole group staff meeting a month approach for March, we created March Monday Madness Learning Sessions. As a staff member, you select one (or more) Monday in March you wish to lead or attend a 21st century learning session. Staff and community members were encouraged to pitch a learning strategy or lead one for small interested groups. Stay tuned to see if this works in developing teacher leaders and learners! Principal, Jacqueline Newton @ Dr Frank J Hayden SS in Burlington, Onatrio

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