When I started out as a teacher, over a decade ago, the school I was in was very much a "top-down" school. The Superintendent was in charge, then the Principal, then the teachers. I don't know that I even recognized if any of the more experienced teachers I worked with were "leaders" according to the definition that we all seem to understand. Yes, they were well versed in education, but did they take on leadership roles outside of their classroom within the school? Not really. Did they mentor new teachers? Not really. I was there for 2 1/2 years (the 1/2 year was at the beginning of my career - I was a mid-year hire) and left after feeling a huge mismatch between the leadership style of the administration and where I felt I wanted to go.
I was there for 7 years. Within a couple years of my being there, I felt myself taking on more and more leadership roles. I was encouraged by my administration to participate on committees and to help influence curriculum and decisions that were made both in the school and the district. I felt listened too and supported by my administration. I could go to them and share my ideas and know that they were listening. My self-confidence during this time soared and I started to see myself as a knowledgeable teacher. This culture of support, encouragement and my perceived expectation that teachers would develop leadership skills really influenced me to take risks, to learn more and more about many different topics, to improve my instructional methods, and to mentor others.
Now, I've moved into an administrative role in a different district. One of my main questions I have is how to develop this leadership within the teachers whom I work with. How do I help them gain confidence in their instructional techniques? How can I create an environment where there is an expectation of self-improvement, self-advocacy, and risk-taking?
I've only been in this position for a few months, but here are some of the things I've done and some things that I'm considering.
1) One of my main priorities so far has been to build trust between myself and my team. One of the main things about being at GW compared to where I was previously was a culture of trust that my administration strove to build with me. I knew that my Principal trusted me to make good decisions about my program and my classroom. I want to build that same belief in my team. I want them to believe and to know that I trust them to make good decisions about their classrooms and their instruction. How have I built trust? I've tried to listen to them, to meet with them, to get to know them, and I try and recognize the good things I see or that others tell me they saw them doing.
2) I'm sharing information about professional development opportunities that go beyond the traditional "sit and get" workshops. The Teachers for Global Classrooms program (applications still open until March 18th!) was not only one of the most rewarding professional development experiences of my career, but it got me out of my comfort zone and helped me gain more confidence in my own skills. I've also encouraged them to attend specific PD related to where their personally identified goals lie, and every time we meet as a team, I try and stress the importance of continuous professional development.
3) When I see my team taking risks, or volunteering for tasks, I'm showing my appreciation. Teachers are so busy, so when they step up and take on a role or responsibility that creates a little extra work, I try and appreciate the fact that they are doing this. I know that, personally, when I stepped up as a teacher and was NOT recognized (meaning something as simple as a "Thank You"), the potential was there for me to feel like I was being used.
Am I on the right track? Are there any other ways that I, as an administrator (NOT a building principal) over a team of teachers, can help to develop leadership in the teachers I work with?
The article that prompted this post, but which I never actually address at all, is from Education Week Teacher and is about a Department of Education program to develop Teacher Leaders - without ever defining what a Teacher Leader is.