Sunday, January 15, 2012

Teachers as Leaders - part 3

Shortly before the Christmas holidays we were involved in an assessment workshop at school.  In the session that I attended we were shown the above movie about motivation.  I've seen it before and have also done a workshop with Dan Pink at Munich International School a couple of years ago, but at that time I focused on motivation and how it applied to students.  This time as I watched it I wasn't thinking about motivating students, but I was thinking about motivation as it applies to teachers.

In my experience Dan Pink is absolutely spot on when he says that the 3 things that motivate people are autonomy, mastery and purpose.  These are what lead to better performance and to more personal satisfaction - and of course this is relevant as we think of students owning their own learning but also in terms of how satisfied teachers are with their own roles.  Teacher leadership is also a way of providing all 3 of these, but this involves changing the culture of schools that are management top-heavy.  As Dan Pink says management can get in the way of autonomy and therefore engagement.  If people are given more autonomy then they are more likely to devote their own time to getting better at something.  Most teachers, after all, entered the teaching profession because they wanted to make a difference to children's lives and most teachers want to work in a place where they feel inspired and empowered.  They don't necessarily want to become principals or administrators, but want to remain in the classroom connected to students and to have some autonomy and purpose there.

Providing teachers opportunities for taking on leadership roles gives teachers more of a sense of purpose.  According to the Teacher Leadership Exploratory Consortium - it "encourages teachers to engage in, contribute to, take responsibility for and become accountable for what is happening in their schools.  Promoting collaboration, support and teamwork among teachers will create a culture where all members share a strong sense of community and collective responsibility for student success.  In turn, success in improving student learning will contribute to teachers' sense of accomplishment and professional satisfaction."

Suggestions for giving teachers more opportunities for leadership could involve creating new "hybrid" roles for teachers so that they are part-time in the classroom and part-time coaches, facilitators and mentors to other teachers.  Other teachers who may be more interested in policies or curriculum may find a shared or distributed leadership structure could provide opportunities for them to get more involved in leadership roles.  Teacher leaders are experienced professionals who are respected by colleagues and students - they have the skills to work with other teachers to improve student learning but they need time, space and scheduling to be changed to support this collaboration.  Another suggestion for encouraging teachers to try out new ideas an innovative practices is to promote school and classroom-based action research.  Sharing this with colleagues in other local schools is also a powerful form of professional development and again contributes to the sense of mastery and purpose.

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