Although American schools have historically operated within a hierarchical structure,* today’s focus on teacher leadership is bringing additional skills, knowledge, and expertise to the table. It’s a valuable principal-teacher partnership that not only allows the goals of a school to be more easily met, but it has the power to improve student outcomes as well. As teacher leadership increasingly gains traction in America’s schools, the students, teachers, and principals are benefiting from the shared responsibility.
What is Teacher Leadership?
Teacher leadership incorporates a teacher’s skills, knowledge, and expertise in helping their school achieve its main goal: providing opportunities for all students to succeed. No longer isolated in the classroom and from one another, teachers join the ranks of decision makers and use their influence to help shape instructional leadership and strengthen key areas of responsibility within the school. Though the roles and responsibilities of teacher leaders exceed their regular classroom duties, the added work in support of the partnership produces measurable and impactful outcomes and creates a sense of pride and satisfaction for those involved.*
How Schools Benefit From Principals and Teacher Leaders
Principals need legal, financial, data, and personnel management knowledge to meet the daily challenges of school administration, as well as the instructional leadership skills required to improve student outcomes. Gone are the days when one person could do it all and do it well, consistently garnering positive results without compromise. Principals need to seek support from their school community. Here are four ways principals benefit from teacher leadership:
- Filling in the blind spots. Effective principals identify gaps where they need the most help and then interview teachers who show an interest in leadership, thus aligning the two by empowering teachers with the critical skills, knowledge, and passion to lend their voice and expertise where needed. In addition, as principals break down barriers within their schools, they get to know their teaching staff better and encourage more to consider education leadership opportunities.
- Delegating workload. A principal is the school’s instructional leader, and spontaneously visiting the classroom can offer key insights. By sharing administrative responsibilities with an instructional team of teacher leaders, principals have more time to spend in the classroom observing teaching strategies and providing valuable feedback to educators so that they can continually grow their skills.
- Improving relationships to improve student achievement. Leadership is about relationships, and cultivating mutual respect and trust is key within schools. Principals need to acknowledge the value of their teachers. In turn, teachers who feel they have their principal’s confidence are more able to positively perform in the classroom. This ripple effect of strong leadership produces gains in student outcomes and pride among the teaching community.†
- Leveraging the benefits of collaboration. Professional learning communities are created by effective principals and teachers working together in support of a shared vision of the school. Building strong relationships allows for enhanced and critical collaboration, communication, and cooperation. As teachers passionately work together, their efforts to improve the quality of teaching and learning result in improved student outcomes.‡
Principals who realize that student learning is a shared responsibility and who recruit a group of passionate educators to be part of their leadership team make a substantial difference in the lives of others.
Whether your passion is to enhance your leadership skills while remaining in the classroom or to become an administrator, Walden University offers online MSEd programs to meet your goals. Build your leadership and mentoring skills with the online MS in Education with a specialization in Teacher Leadership (Grades K–12). You can also choose to develop the management, leadership, and advanced instructional skills needed to become an effective principal with an MS in Education (MSEd). Walden University’s online MSEd with a specialization in Educational Leadership and Administration (Principal Licensure Preparation) is designed for aspiring educational leaders who want to create a collaborative school community committed to improving student achievement.
*J. Burgess and D. Bates, Other Duties as Assigned, “Shared Leadership,” on the internet at http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/109075/chapters/Shared-Leadership.aspx.
†The Wallace Foundation, Shared Leadership: Effects on Teachers and Students of Principals and Teachers Leading Together, on the internet at www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/pages/1_2-shared-leadership-learning-from-leadership.aspx#key-findings.
‡The Wallace Foundation, The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning, on the internet at www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/Documents/The-School-Principal-as-Leader-Guiding-Schools-to-Better-Teaching-and-Learning-2nd-Ed.pdf.