Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

Navigating the Roles of Leadership: Mentors' Perspectives on Teacher Leadership

Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

Navigating the Roles of Leadership: Mentors' Perspectives on Teacher Leadership

Article excerpt

Background

This study was conducted by members of the Comprehensive Teacher Induction Consortium (CTIC). The CTIC, a national organization formed in 2008, includes individuals from a group of teacher-induction programs that have successfully utilized a similar model for the past 20 years. Although seven programs have been identified in the United States, the consortium currently has five researchers who collaborate across programs. Teacher educators, we represent the University of Missouri, University of Nebraska at Omaha, and Texas State University-San Marcos. All three programs are based on the Albuquerque Public Schools/University of New Mexico (APS/UNM) Teacher Induction Program model, which was established in 1984.

After meeting to discuss common goals for teacher induction and mentoring, we agreed to collaborate in an effort to share ideas and research opportunities. Our comprehensive teacher-induction programs enable us to compare data across programs because we share five crucial components: (a) a full year of mentored support for first-year, already-certified teachers by full-time, experienced teachers who have been released from their classroom duties; (b) ongoing support for mentors in the form of weekly or monthly seminars; (c) coursework leading to a masters degree, which new teachers complete in 15 months; (d) a cohort group of beginning teachers; and (e) job-embedded professional development, e.g., teacher research, peer coaching, and videotaped teaching reflections (Gilles, Davis, & McGlamery, 2009).

During the 2013-2014 academic year, the research team collected data on mentor teachers as teacher leaders. Using a common set of interview questions, we explored many aspects of teacher leadership, including the contributions of mentor teachers to the development of beginning teachers' leadership skills. In this article, we share some of our findings on mentor teachers and their leadership contributions.

Our purposes in writing this article are to highlight the contributions mentor teachers have made in the development of teacher leaders. Further, we seek to make explicit the personal challenges mentors face as teacher leaders and how their leadership has influenced the development of their mentees as teacher leaders. We present three case studies of mentors who have been recognized as outstanding teacher leaders by school districts, principals, and their teacher mentees.

Literature Review

One need not delve very deeply into the research to find that classroom teachers are stepping outside of their classrooms and becoming more involved in leadership roles within their buildings, districts, and communities (Harrison & Killion, 2007; Kurtz, 2009). Many teachers are released from their full-time teaching responsibilities to serve in the role of mentor to new teachers in their buildings or districts. Mentors assume a wide range of roles in their leadership positions. Some of the roles are formally assigned, whereas other roles are informal. Whether their roles are assigned formally or informally, mentors assist in shaping the knowledge, skills, and dispositions of their mentees and colleagues. Further, mentors assist in improving school culture and influence practice among their mentees and peers (Barth, 2001; Danielson, 2006; Kurtz, 2009).

Mentors serve their mentees, district, and P-12 students as curriculum and instructional specialists, resource providers, classroom supporters and learning facilitators, school leaders and learners, data coaches, and catalysts for change (Harrison & Killion, 2007). Teacher leaders who step into the role of mentor face significant responsibilities. Within these multifaceted roles, mentors encounter triumphs and challenges. Effective teacher leaders draw upon their extensive knowledge of curriculum, best practices, and current research and courageously share their experiences and expertise with their mentees and peers. Mentors step up and accept the responsibility for the learning of each and every student, act as role models for their colleagues and mentees, and guide and support them in the quest to improve school culture and achievement ("Teacher leadership: New roles for teacher leaders,'' 2013). …

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