There is no good teaching without a vision beyond our classroom. A teacher should be able to think out of the box to extend his influence to his teams, schools and wider community. Usually we consider teaching as a profession where the possibilities of evolution are reduced to administrative work. And it is true to a certain extent. The only way for most teachers to gain more responsibility is to become an administrator with all the paper work it implies. Therefore good practitioners in classrooms are of course very limited when it comes to expanding their visions. How can you possibly extend your influence while dealing with data and figures? Sadly good practitioners that endorse the role of administrators become quite disillusioned with the profession and can even become quite cynical. Too many schools are still organized around the idea that administrators are the ones who will take the important decisions while teachers will be the ones implementing these decisions whether they agree or not. Hopefully schools have recently understood that a collaborative work between teachers and administrators was necessary and now in the most outstanding schools, teachers are given the opportunity to take initiative and they are even encouraged to do so by the administrators. Understanding what a teacher needs to become a teacher leader should help schools improve their results and help teachers fulfill their ambitions and realize their true potential.
Hopefully there are now some ways for teachers to become real leaders that will change and improve education.Two main types of teacher leaders usually emerge from schools. The ones that have formerly applied for a position as a Head of Department, teacher coach or curriculum leaders and the others with no formal position but whose skills are that of leaders. The formal teacher leaders as we may call them are usually trained for their position and they are selected among other candidates. They will be appointed to be in charge of certain teaching-coaching areas decided in advance by the school. The informal teacher-leaders have on the contrary no positional authority; they simply emerge spontaneously from the crowd and stand up for their vision. They will be seen as natural leaders whose expertise and experience will be valued by their peers. They will naturally take initiatives.
Whatever the type of teacher leader they belong to, good teacher leaders demonstrate important skills to motivate and energize their peers. The key ability when talking about leadership is to be able to have people to commit to your vision. Effective teacher leaders are the ones who are capable of sharing their vision and have their colleagues to support it. They are the ones building consensus among people and they are the ones capable of convincing others that their vision is valid.
A good teacher leader is someone with good listening skills. People who can’t listen to others’ views will not be able to become efficient leaders. Some of the strengths of teacher leaders rely on the fact that they are open-minded, that they can display enthusiasm for a project and that they have the confidence to take decisions. They are also flexible people and they often think out of the box to find new approaches to a problem.
So these strengths are often the ones we can find in teachers but how come teachers don’t use these skills beyond their classrooms? Well staying in our comfort zone is often more comfortable I should say. Teachers often have all that is required to be good leaders but they often don’t know how to assume the role of the leader. Teachers who want to engage on the road of leadership are not well-equipped with what is coming ahead. They will need to develop expertise in curriculum planning, design assignments, track data etc. and this is not always easy even if you have some natural strengths as a leader.
Being a leader within a team or department can take many forms. Change will appear progressively within departments or teams that are ready to take some risks and accept some extra workload. But it is worth the try as if you are the one endorsing the role of the teacher leader you will have the feeling to be part of something bigger than a classroom and you will have this incredible feeling of fulfillment once the project has been led to its end. The success of these entrepreneurial projects is based on the idea that your vision to improve the quality of teaching-learning is supported and trusted 100% by your colleagues. Leadership at that level may lead to interesting projects: creating a reading program that would raise students’ literacy skills, coordinating a program to help some specific learners to achieve best (the targeted kids could be SEN students, ESL learners etc.), developing extra-curricular activities to enhance the collaborative aspect between teachers and students etc. The projects for teacher-leaders are endless as long as they have strong interpersonal skills and provided they receive the support from the administrators and colleagues.