The work of teachers and schools is increasingly more complex than ever before. We evaluate our teachers’ effectiveness in preparation and delivery of instruction; communication and professionalism; engagement, assessment, differentiation, and design. Our expectations for the outcomes of their work is that all of our students will grow in their competencies, and that those who are competent become exemplary. It’s our school’s design that they do so while collaborating with their colleagues in order to support the team and grow as individuals.
All of these efforts are well-intended and are reasonable expectations for our teachers. At the core, schools are learning institutions and our emphasis in recent years to include all students is both noble and right.
The problem is this: in most settings, we’ve increased expectations without increasing the resources to support the work of our teachers. The number of principals and assistant principals remains the same; the time needed to support the work of our teachers has increased, in some cases exponentially.
How do we get it all done? The answer can’t be “work harder.” Or even, work longer. Those aren’t sustainable and lead to burnout and/or crash on the parts of our school-based leaders. The administrative churn is real, and more and more school leaders are working to deal with anxiety, stress, and a crisis of time.
The path forward to success is through the development of teacher leaders. If you’re thinking, “wait, aren’t they just as taxed for time as the administration, maybe even more so?” you’re right. We can’t merely shift the burden of responsibility and accountability from administrators to teachers. The teacher shortage is real, and more and more teachers are working to deal with anxiety, stress, and time, just as their administrative colleagues.
The pathway to a successfully-designed school environment isn’t a shift in duties and responsibilities, but a new approach in how we interact with each other and the work we have to accomplish together.
Many schools and systems have begun the shift into a distributed form of leadership that brings teachers, usually assembled into meaningful teams, together to design instruction, improve performance, and learn together.
That’s not new. What might be missing for you and your team is a continuous, strategic approach in supporting the work of those teachers who lead other teachers. What do they need? What are you asking them to accomplish in this role? When can you provide them leadership development that helps them in their teacher-leader role?
Most of our teachers who are asked to assume leadership roles have had little to no formal PD in leadership. While many of them have learned a lot about leadership already, much through their work as teachers, coaches, and sponsors, an intentional approach to their work as leaders can provide the needed framework for them to successfully lead their colleagues. Beyond the initial training, continued support from you and your administrative team can assure that their work continues on the trajectory you are seeking.
It’s like this: as administrators, you don’t have time to do everything. One of the most essential things you can do to improve student achievement is to focus on talent development, or the strategic growth of your teachers. Given the restraints that time places on you as the leader, you need leverage, and that leverage exists in your school in the form of teacher-leaders. While it’s hard for you to personally devote enough time to each of your faculty members for them to adequately grow, it’s imperative that you dedicate the necessary time to grow those you’ve tapped as the teacher-leaders.
Your grade-level leaders, department heads, and others need you. They need you to help develop them as leaders, then support them in their work. Get out your calendar and select upcoming dates for your work with them, and then pour into them what they need to join you in the leading and learning that will help your school prosper.