Over the last two and a half years that I have been posting on this blog I have fallen into a pattern of confessing. I have a confession for this post too and that is that I am a teacher leadership junky. I think it’s the most powerful way for teachers to transform their practice and to transform the culture of their schools, towns, and student learning. I am such a junky that my husband makes fun of me all the time for not having a hobby because my job is my hobby. I like to call it my jobby. He absolutely hated that, but I love it.
My recent rant in terms of teacher leadership is how much it is connected to the TPEP experience throughout our state. I have been working with first-year teachers and their evaluations all year. We have spent a lot of time swimming in the rubric language for the Danielson framework because of this. These teachers are also in their first year so we focus a lot on the basic and proficient language. That is not to say that none of their scores could land there it’s just not where we began to roll up our sleeves and dig into the work as a focus for their first year in the profession.
A few, however, have looked at that last rating and expressed frustration, or at least stated realization that to be scored distinguished in some categories is impossible, or at least it feels that way to some of them. I have heard this over the past few years from my experienced colleagues as well. I argue when faced with this idea that it is not impossible and that teacher leadership is the key to scoring, and ultimately, more importantly performing on our staff and in our schools at this highest level and with the highest impact.
OSPI Criteria for teacher evaluation number 8 reads:
“Professional Practice; the teacher participates collaboratively in the educational community to improve instruction, advance the knowledge and practice of teaching as a profession, and ultimately impact student learning.”
When I look at this and think about how a teacher would perform at a high level in order to meet the criteria I feel as though being a leader in these collaborative communities will have the utmost impact on your own practice and the advancement of knowledge around that practice. I am not alone, or the first one to think this. I know this because as I dug into my own Danielson framework as well as the CEL’s 5D, and the Marzano model I found many references to the highest level of teacher performance being centered around their leadership.
For example, if you are also using the Danielson Framework here is some language out of the framework specifically focusses around Domain 4 Professional Responsibilities:
“The teacher take a leadership role in promoting activities related to professional inquiry.”
“The teacher regularly contributes to and leads event that positively impact school life.”
“The teacher regularly contributes to and leads significant district and community projects.”
“The teacher takes an active leadership role in professional organizations in order to contribute to the profession.”
If you are on CEL’s 5D this is the rubric language for the indicators of the dimension pertaining to Professional Communication and Collaboration:
“Teacher collaborates and engages in reflective inquiry with peers and administrators for the purpose of improving instructional practice, and student and teacher learning. Teacher occasionally leads collaborative work.”
“Teacher develops and sustains professional and collegial relationships for the purpose of student, staff or district growth. Teacher serves as a mentor for others’ growth and development.”
“Teacher supports and looks for opportunities to take on leadership roles in developing and implementing school, district, and state initiatives. Teacher follows district policies and implements district curricula and policy.”
“Teacher advocates for fair and equitable practices for all students. Teacher challenges adult attitudes and practices that may be harmful or demeaning to students.”
Don’t worry my Marzano friends you have it too. Here are some quotes from the Marzano framework around Component 8:
“The teacher consistently models established norms and collective commitments. The teacher is a recognized leader in facilitating the team/group in resolving conflict for effective functioning.”
“The teacher is a recognized leader in helping others be aware of and participate in district and school initiatives.”
In all of the rubrics in the Marzano framework focussed on Domain 4 Collegiality and Professionalism the highest performance level reads:
“The teacher is a recognized leader in helping others with this activity.”
And no matter what framework you are working with the student growth goals are measured on the OSPI rubric which reads for the 8.1 goal:
“Leads other grade, school, or district team members to establish goal(s), to develop and implement common, high-quality measures, and to monitor growth and achievement during the year.”
After finding this powerful trend in the frameworks toward teacher leadership I was struck by one more thought. And that is that NONE of these say that a teacher has taken a position, or is being paid for any of these things. What it really points to is the idea that each teacher can and should be a leader. Functioning as leaders in our own capacity can transform our schools and impact the culture at large. I am happy that the state frameworks recognize this as an important part of a teacher’s role. They also don’t push for teachers to be the leaders of everything. Teachers are as unique as their students. We can find what we are passionate about and be the leader for that initiative, change, or just inquiry and our evaluators should see that, be proud of us, and reward us by reflecting that in our evaluations.
I hope that we can see teacher leadership and TPEP as a goal and a way to challenge ourselves to be better and to be part of our community instead of something impossible. I also hope that teachers can strive to be leaders and to find their own paths to leadership and not wait for their number to come up for an official position. I am sure that if teachers can find their leadership niche they will be rewarded in many meaningful ways and not just by a high mark on their evaluation, though that never hurts.