We don't say principal leadership or superintendent leadership. Instead we refer to the leadership qualities of the principal or superintendent. It may seem like an issue of semantics but the reality is that if a teacher is described as a leader, the qualities that are described are often seen as extra.
In schools and districts that use the Miller Guidance System, teachers are catalysts of change in the collaborative grade level team process.
Foundational policy, procedure and infrastructure decisions are made by district administrators and are communicated throughout the system. Principals facilitate the communication and individualization of district decisions at the building level through their school leadership team. The district creates a blueprint and schools make it their own by filling in details. But teachers are the direct link to student learning. Just as the district decisions flow down, so does teacher feedback flow up! Changes are made to the system based on feedback from teachers.
The backbone of the Miller Guidance System is professional development. At all levels, teachers, administrators and support staffs think critically about the information before them. They form hypotheses and agree to act upon the hypotheses. The work of planning instruction is done with grade level teachers so that all children at a grade level are guaranteed an instructional program aligned to college and career ready standards. Clive Coleman in his 2005 dissertation at the University of New Orleans referred to this as “profound teamwork”. As teachers work in this system they become aware of gaps in their own knowledge and skills and request professional development through the principal and school leadership team. This is arranged at the building level by the principal who is able to directly allocate funds. Teachers are in charge of their own learning and as a result of their proximity to student learning serve an important role in determining district actions and resource allocation
Now to the point—teacher leadership is not only an option but a necessity. Listed below are a few examples:
- Providing feedback to district leadership on needed adjustments to the infrastructure, policies or procedures
- Serving on the school leadership team to finalize building specific processes
- Encouraging collaborative discussion and action at the grade level specific teams (Grade levels that lack a teacher leader are dysfunctional in the Miller Guidance System since principals facilitate but teachers must decide the actions to take.)
- Assuming an additional role on the grade level team
- Working with grade level colleagues to ensure that actions are carried out with integrity
- Volunteering to provide professional learning opportunities to colleagues (site visits, observations, modeling, presentations, etc.)
There are numerous paradigms that shift as a system such as this is implemented. Clear, committed leadership at all levels is required. The result is empowered teachers and improved student learning.