School Leadership and Developing Teacher Leaders
By Jessica Kilmetz and Catherine Renzulli, Phoenixville Area School District, Pennsylvania
District level leaders can sometimes struggle with the overwhelming task of “teacher development.” Administrators and school leadership are often assessed on their ability in developing teacher leaders, but many struggle to truly make this a regular part of their practice.
As curriculum supervisors who both transferred to district-level jobs from building level administration, these authors feel your pain. Simply getting to know every staff member’s name can be a daunting task, let alone finding ways to grow their talents! Approaching this challenge systematically can help district (or building) leaders to identify a course of action.
1. Building relationships with teachers and staff.
Start with the simple: introduce yourself to colleagues you don’t know. And if you don’t remember if you’re supposed to know them, don’t worry! Your staff may need double introductions to remember you, too!
Have sit-down meetings with all your existing teams to get their feedback about goals, needs, and ways you can support. Meet with all onboarding teachers on an individual basis. Use the supervision and evaluation process as an opportunity to get to know your teachers’ strengths and areas for growth. Indeed, see all meeting times as occasions for relationship building.
The term Instructional Coach has become a bit of a buzzword in education. Many districts and schools are utilizing these positions to support teachers with their instructional practice, curriculum development, and assessment analysis. In this blog, learn how to make instructional coaching effective in growing teachers.
2. Facilitating professional development for teachers.
Establish times for recurring professional learning opportunities. In your district, this may be faculty meeting time, team time, before or after school time. The format for these PD sessions can be chat and chew discussion, or more formal presentation. Either way, this helps you to continue forging relationships while going after your district’s instructional goals and addressing teacher needs. Doing this sends a clear message that you are working to support teachers.
Consider PD as a training ground for your teachers. PD, in combination with frequent classroom walkthrough observations, will quickly help you to find the teachers who stand out to you. In this way, you can start to build a “TEAM” (Teachers Engaged in Advocacy and Mentorship). Under your leadership, these teachers advocate for, and mentor, colleagues, and can assist you in building momentum for your change initiatives.
3. Engaging with your team throughout the process.
Whether you build a TEAM from scratch or you enter a position with a team of teachers already in place, it is critical that these teachers not only feel supported by administration, but that they feel valued. Find ways to express your faith in their talents, such as sharing new research they may find relevant to their practice; encouraging them to present at local conferences; finding educational interest groups to suggest they join; or sharing out-of-district learning opportunities.
No matter what you are looking to accomplish in your district, reflect on the following questions:
- How much teacher support will you need to achieve your change initiative?
- Which teachers/staff will support this initiative without your intervention?
- Which teachers/staff can you enlist support from?
- How will you develop these teachers to lead your change?
Supporting your change efforts through teacher engagement is one of the smartest moves you can make. As with any major initiative, you cannot do it alone. (Or maybe you can. It just won’t be as powerful.)