Jennifer Kaupke EDA 534 March 3, 2010 Book Report: Teacher Leadership “The atmosphere in my school is so negative. I know in my heart that this is wrong. I feel pain and loneliness. I don’t want to give up. But I feel that I am being drowned by a huge wave.” Ann Lieberman and Lynne Miller used this quote and several others as anintroduction to their book Teacher Leadership. Teachers across the country are feelingextreme levels of burnout. This book describes ways that teacher leadership can providean environment of increased student achievement and a more collaborative atmospherefor teachers. The text refers to three main roles for teacher leadership: advocates for new formsof accountability and assessment, innovators in the reconstruction of norms ofachievement and expectations for students, and stewards for and invigorated profession(pg 12). Through each of these roles, teacher leaders have the ability to make majorchanges within a school. I believe that each of these different roles is extremelyimportant. I believe that the final role, which involves support for the profession andbuilding a collaborative environment, would have the greatest impact in the least amountof time. Teacher isolation has been the norm for many years and a shift to a morecollaborative environment where teaching can be critiqued and improved, with positivereinforcement, will have huge impact on the achievement of our students. Also, throughcontinued education of our teachers and a more professional atmosphere within ourschools, we would have greater respect and support from our communities.
“In 1995, Fullan wrote about the necessity of extending the notion of teacherleadership. He advocated moving away form a narrow view of a single individual tryingto make a dent in a bureaucratic system toward a more complex perspective that involvesmultiple levels of leadership, all engaged in reshaping the culture of the school. Workingtogether as a cohort rather than as individuals, teacher leaders can build a newcollaborative culture.” (pg 25) Bringing people together is the key to building asuccessful school. As a leader, I find the biggest challenge is creating more teacherleaders. The school where I work has many teachers who are not interested in beingleaders. The difficult part about building teacher leadership is that if you are able to buildit among multiple teachers but cannot build in with the majority of teachers, the burdenbecomes far to large for those few involved. It is also very difficult when working with asmall staff. For example, my staff consists of only nineteen teachers so the fact that wealready have about five teachers who have taken on leadership roles is quite good but theburden on those five can be overwhelming. This text spends several pages outlining the National Writing Project (pg 33) thatbrings teachers together to improve techniques for teaching writing while also developingleadership skills. Although this program sounds like a wonderful way to improveteaching techniques and develop leadership skills, I feel that those involved in theprogram are already natural leaders who just need to improve their skills. The teachers Iencounter who are working toward bettering themselves as educators are typically thosewho also take on leadership roles of some sort and they simply need to improve thoseleadership skills.
The second program discussed is Leadership for Tomorrow’s Schools, whichsends representatives from a district through a two-year program for building leadership.The program includes the superintendent, school principals, as well as representatives forall grade levels and subject areas. The first year is centered on the question: How do weknow when effective teaching and learning occur? (pg 45) This central question, which isfocused on the learner and the effectiveness of our instruction, in my mind, is a greatfocus for any professional development. The second year of this program is centered onthe question: What kind of leadership is necessary to create and sustain anorganizational culture and enabling structures that promote learning? (pg 47) Thisquestion is also an excellent focus for professional development for teachers. Although,my worry is that those involved are already the leaders of the school; they are already theteachers who are taking on extra responsibility. This is an exercise of making thesecurrent leaders into better leaders who are more effective in their leadership. Althoughthe development of teacher leaders into better teacher leaders is important, my fear as afuture administrator is that continually relying on the same teachers to be the leadersinstead of building new leaders will cause burnout among current leaders. “When teachers lead, they help to create an environment for learning thatinfluences the entire school community… This is not to say that being a teacher leader iseasy.” Teacher leaders create a more optimistic environment where teachers can seechanges surfacing. Somehow, we must find a balance for teacher leaders so they canbring this optimism and change to our schools without causing burnout among theseleaders.
Although this book provided many excellent ideas for improving current teacherleaders, I would like to have seen more examples of strategies for how to motivateteachers to take on leadership roles who currently refuse to take on anything beyond theirclassroom. As future administrators, it is critical that we find solutions to end thenegative feelings that teachers are feeling and find ways to increase optimism so thatthere will be less burnout among our teachers.