On Monday we asked our readers: How might schools benefit from this split role, and conversely, what are the biggest risks of the teacher-leader model?
Educator and reader Kenneth Durham reminded us in a comment that teacher-leaders are not a new concept:
Prior to the creation of principalships, schools were lead by teachers and in some cases a lead teacher. Leadership at its core is about helping other to realize their potential for their benefit and the benefit of their community. The first advantage I see in this split role is the intentional communication that leadership is not confined, nor should it be, to the principal’s office. … A risk of the teacher leader model is poor development that leads to leaders that do not understand the role of a leader. Leadership should be studied, experienced, reflected on, refined, and then have the process repeated. Leadership is not about the leader.
A Denver teacher-leader, who asked to remain anonymous, emailed this:
Most effective has been the chance to model and co-plan with teachers and to give them release time to afford them opportunities to observe other teachers’ practice. Far less effective, and even damaging to the role, is the mix of evaluation and coaching. It hampers the process of building trust, detracts from time that could be spent actually mentoring, and flavors the entire process in an unfortunate way. The training I have received this year has solely been on the evaluative side of the process: giving feedback, having difficult conversations, understanding rubrics and calibrating LEAP scores, etc. There has been no opportunity to grow in areas of educational practice.
Adams 12 teacher and sometimes First Person contributor Mark Sass agreed that teacher-leaders can do more than just evaluate other teachers:
Teachers have expertise in many areas that should be recognized and utilized. Some teachers are expert data analysts, others are knowledgeable in writing curriculum; still others have policy expertise. Teachers, and not paid outside contractors, should be leading professional development. All of this means a new and progressive look at how we recognize and compensate teachers. No more one size fits all compensation program. It also means a systematic and structured approach that doesn’t rely on TIFs to pay for teacher leader positions. What will Denver do when the TIFs run dry?
On Facebook, Antonio D’Lallo suggested leadership should be shared by the principal, teachers, parents, and students:
I worked in a site-based managed alternative high school and we had a council of students, parents and teachers along with our principal that made decisions that impacted us from instruction and curriculum to hiring and firing/renewal of contract. It was a great system that empowered all of us to make the best decisions for students.