This post was started in my drafts about a month ago. Since then I attended Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers (ECET2). Lots of discussion there about teacher leaders and teacher leadership.
Before the conference my thoughts about teacher leaders, in draft form here, were:
– open their classrooms in as many ways as possible
– how is this different at different levels – hard for elementary teachers to have time out of the classroom compared to middle/high school teachers
Clearly I intended to flesh that out a little. The big idea in my thinking was that one thing teacher leaders do is to teach as transparently as possible, they open their classroom to as many people as they can. This requires time to make it happen as well as, hopefully, some time to discuss what others are seeing. Because middle school and high school schedules are set up in periods, it is possible to have teachers teach one or more fewer periods in order to offer them time. It makes it easier to teach some and do other things. At the elementary level, without scheduled periods, it’s more challenging to be partly in and partly out of the classroom.
My time at ECET2 reinforced my thoughts here. ECET2 is a conference hosted by the Gates Foundation to, not surprisingly, elevate and celebrate teachers and teaching. One of the most exciting things about the conference was being in a room with more than 200 teachers. Not administrators, not central office folks, not consultants, but teachers. Everyone of them is in a classroom. These were my people.
Many of these teachers are in the classroom full time and managing to do amazing things. Some, however, spend part of their time in the classroom and part of their time leading in other awesome ways. From purely anecdotal data, the middle and high school teachers are doing that with more ease than the elementary teachers. I heard from several elementary teachers how stressful it was. They were still responsible for many of the little things for their class of students (attendance, forms/paperwork, parent communication, documentation, etc.) but someone else teaches their kids for a period (typically an hour or so) each day. I think, also, that elementary teachers aren’t accustomed to giving up their kiddos for some of the day. Middle and high school teachers don’t have to do anything significantly different to have more time away from students. They’re used to having kids come and go.
This is a bit rambling and not nearly as well said as I had hoped. The demands of teaching are not small, no matter the grade level. Balancing those demands with time for other professional activities and leadership will help elevate our profession and help teachers grow. How do we make that happen? Especially for elementary teachers?
Or, just to expand the question, what does teacher leadership look like to you?