Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Supporting Teacher Leaders

In professional learning communities, I am a firm believer that they should be able to run effectively whether or not I (the school administrator) am present. A few years ago, I worked with a phenomenal teacher who I convinced to become my grade level PLC facilitator, and she did an amazing job making sure our grade level functioned as a well-oiled and completely child-centered machine.

After working alongside her for awhile, I asked her if she ever thought of going into administration. "Not on your life!" was her response. She went on to tell me that while she enjoyed the contributions to her fellow staff members and school, she was happiest working with the students.

The majority of schools have people like my fabulous PLC facilitator who serve as teacher leaders. In most cases these people go above and beyond without any extra compensation. There are, however several things we as school leaders can do to recognize and support these AMAZING individuals.

Get Them Some Leadership Training
When I pursued my degree in school administration, I learned that working with adults was going to be a lot different than working with children. Thankfully, I've been able to acquire some skills to work with them. Our teacher leaders are often expected to serve on committees, plan new initiatives, and provide coaching to their colleagues without any leadership training. If you are in a larger school system, work with your professional development department to establish a series of training or coaching sessions your teacher leaders can attend. In addition, many higher education institutions are also beginning to offer workshops and programs geared towards teacher leaders. For example, Virginia Commonwealth University (my alma-mater) offers several programs designed specifically for teacher leaders. Read more about it at

Lend Them Your Ear 
Including teachers in the decision making process is a key component of developing a strong professional learning community.  Your team leaders, department chairs, and grade level facilitators are great people to begin talking to, as they can also pass on information. When assessment data comes in, teach them how to interpret it, and get their opinion on what they notice about it. In addition, make sure they are playing an active role in the development of your school improvement plan. Teacher leaders often have a unique read on the pulse of the school, and can provide a different point of view how a new plan can affect the school on cultural and instructional levels.

Celebrate Their Accomplishments
While we may not be able to pay them what they deserve, we can certainly shower them with praise. These things should be done for all teachers who deserve it.

  • Thank you notes - I have gold star cutouts that I write notes to teachers on. These are for the little things they do every day. I know they mean a lot to the teachers because they are hanging on doors and bulletin boards in classrooms all over the building! I also write more formal letters for larger accomplishments and put a copy in their personnel file. I will also share major accomplishments with our division leaders. 
  • Performance reviews - I could write a whole post on performance reviews because they have changed dramatically in the past few years. When writing a summative evaluation, be sure to include the contributions the teacher has made. Sometimes we get focused on what happened during the classroom observation, and we all know there is so much more to this job. This will provide documentation that they have gone above and beyond their daily duties. 
  • Opportunities - Your teacher leaders should be attending conferences (and presenting at them), serving on division level committees (so others may know how fabulous they are), and acting as mentors for new teachers. 
I can't fathom having to do my job without the support of these individuals who are willing to step up and support their colleagues, their community, and their profession as teacher leaders. It's only fair that I support them in return by making sure that they have the skillset to thrive as a leader, that they have a voice in the decision making process, and that they get the recognition they deserve. 

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