Teacher Leadership: Why Teachers Must Be Leaders

By Ludlow, Barbara | Teaching Exceptional Children, May/June 2011 | Go to article overview

Teacher Leadership: Why Teachers Must Be Leaders


Ludlow, Barbara, Teaching Exceptional Children


When we think of leaders, we often recall "larger-than-life" individuals who have played a major role in changing the world or how we view it - picture people like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela (civil rights), Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking (science), or Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg (new technologies). But leadership occurs in many contexts, both great and small. In education, supervisors and principals earn advanced degrees in Educational Leadership and are considered instructional leaders. Teachers, on the other hand, traditionally have been expected to follow prescribed curriculum, use prepared materials, and comply with official regulations. As a result, educators (and society as a whole) have come to believe that administrators are leaders and teachers are those who are led.

Princeton University's online dictionary (http://wordnetweb.princeton. edu/perl/webwn) defines a leader as "a person who rules or guides or inspires others." Surely, teachers do and can rule and guide and inspire in many ways, in the classroom and outside of it. Yet, it has been a challenge to get the profession as well as the public (and even teachers themselves) to see teachers as leaders. In 2007, the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality issued a report titled Enhancing Teacher Leadership (http:// www.tqsource.org, use interactive tool to search by title), arguing that helping teachers see themselves as leaders is essential to education reform for effective schools, successful students, and educational innovation. In the same year, Bonnie Billingsley (2007) identified barriers that make it more difficult for special educators to develop as teacher leaders and described leadership roles that special educators can and must assume.

In 2008, a group of national organizations, major universities, state education agencies, and local school systems formed the Teacher Leadership Exploratory Consortium, which issued a draft set of Model Teacher Leader Standards (http://tlstandards.weebly. com) with seven skill domains: supporting professional learning communities, using research to improve teaching activities and learning outcomes, promoting lifelong professional learning, engaging in reflective practice to improve instruction, using assessments and data for school improvement, collaborating with families and communities, and engaging in advocacy efforts. Several states have now developed advanced certificates and universities have created courses and programs in teacher leadership. …

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