It is hard to believe that a little over one-quarter of the school year has passed. It is true what they say, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” A retired teacher in our school coined the phrase “Every day is a holiday” and we cannot agree more working in the district in which we work. But what makes it so great?
First, it is a willingness to see the value of working collaboratively toward a common goal. Even more exciting is seeing the results of that collaborative work! Each year, more and more “independent contractors” are beginning to understand that working in professional learning teams does improve instruction, student achievement and teacher fulfillment. One team has restructured the entire curriculum of five courses in five months, focusing on skills and standards and agreed upon evidence of proficiency. However, this could not have occurred without teacher leadership. The leadership came from the teachers within the professional learning team. These teachers are taking the initiative, learning from one another, holding one another accountable and moving forward so that it is a teacher–owned, sustainable change. This means teachers taking the lead in their grade level teams, departments or professional learning teams. After all, who has the biggest impact on students? Teachers do. This is why teacher leadership is essential as we move forward with the Common Core and preparing our students for college and career in a rapidly changing world.
In Awakening the Sleeping Giant: How to Help Teachers Develop as Leaders, Katzenmeyer and Moller (2009), touch on this as an assumption of teacher leadership.
Teachers should be engaged in the intellectual work of continuous learning through inquiry and reflection. Teachers who are leaders see themselves as researchers, scholars, and problem solvers for improving student learning. These are roles not of technicians but of professionals who use their skills to address the unique problems of their schools. Teachers enter the profession with the expectation that they will have the autonomy to be creative in their work with students. Given today’s emphasis on academic standards and accountability, these teachers are challenged and motivated by the notion that they will have responsibility for designing the instruction to help students meet the standards.
Also, our school has change agents. These change agents are teachers and administrators. Our change agents read current research, learn about what other successful schools are doing well and share it with the professional learning teams. We understand teachers carry full loads and may not have the time to read the latest research book or article. It is then the change agents within the school that provide that information in a meaningful way that can be implemented in the curriculum. These change agents are unique in the sense that they have a big picture concern that goes beyond their present classes and students. These change agents feel compelled to impact their present AND future students. They are looking ahead and wondering what our country will look like in ten years and working to ensure our students will prosper in this future.
Change seems to happen very slowly in schools. Maybe it is time to speed things up a bit. After all we are already one decade into the 21st Century! We need to step out of our comfort zone and focus on what students need and not on what we want. We don’t teach subjects, we teach students. If what we are doing isn’t having the desired effect then it is our responsibility to change to adapt to our students’ needs. This past week, one teacher went through her filing cabinet and threw out years of outdated material of old lessons and units. How did she feel? She felt great. She felt liberated and ready to focus on the here and now without the baggage of the past.
It’s time to weed the garden to make room for new growth.