Recent research studies highlight that for securing and sustaining school improvement effective leadership is generally accepted as being a central component where authority to lead in schools not to be located on notion of singular leadership practiced by principal. As Muijis & Harris (2003) explain that, “In effective leadership, it is sense that leadership is separated from person, roles and status and is primarily concerned with relationships and the connections among individuals within a school” (p.437). Authority to lead need to be displayed within school in between and among people such as teachers who have crucial roles to play in preparing students for life long learners. Teachers understand how students learn so they need to be involved in school level decision-making and have autonomy to design, implement and assess educational activities in their classroom. The idea of teacher leadership is now widely accepted and acknowledge by many researchers like (Smylie; 1995, Hargreaves; 1997, Grown; 2002, Little; 2000, Chenoweth & Everhart; 2002 &Harris; 2003). Therefore it is progressively more expected from researchers to introduce teacher leadership in schools, by preparing teachers through professional development programs, which empower teachers to assume leadership roles as teacher educators, mentors, facilitator, subject coordinators, head of department and advisors. These expanded roles are seen as enhancing teacher empowerment and professionalism by giving practitioners access to knowledge, skills, and powers to exercise independently their professional responsibilities beyond the classroom and building collaboration with colleagues to learn from each other experiences. This will lead towards teachers’ professional and personal growth, which will ultimately contribute in school improvement (Lecos, Evans, Leahy & Lies; 2000). The shift towards more collaborative and teacher leadership from single leadership within schools is like paradigm shift but exactly what do we mean by teacher leadership in school and why leadership for teacher? How lead teachers can demonstrate leadership in school level and how can it be enhanced and develop in schools? This paper looks into answering these basic questions. According to literature there are main six arenas in which lead teachers might reasonably demonstrate leadership at school level: 1.Lead teachers continue to teach and improve their own and other teaching.2.Lead teachers contribute in establishing collaborative culture among teachers 3.Encourage parental involvement in school. 4. Lead teachers organized and lead well-informed peer reviews of school practice. 5. Lead teachers play mediate role in school improvement 6 Lead teachers build trust and rapport with stakeholders (Kathleen; 1987, Harris and Day; 2003, Little; 2000 and Lieberman et al; 2000). However due to word limit I would only be able to focus on the first two arenas in details.
To seek clear definition of teacher leadership is quite complex as there are overlapping and competing definitions of the term in literature, but as this paper focuses on how lead teachers demonstrate leadership in school so I go with the definition of “teacher leadership” which I developed by understanding definitions provided by Katzenmeyer & Moller and Boles &Troen cited in Mujis &Harris (2003) “ it is form of collective leadership in which teachers are skillful involved in work of leadership, teachers have opportunities to improve their teaching and leadership skills through professional development initiatives and by working collaboratively within and beyond the classroom towards improved educational practice”. Why leadership for teachers
School’s ability to improve and sustain improvement largely depends upon its ability to foster professional learning community where teachers participate in leadership activities and decision making, having shared vision of school and engage in collaborative work for improving their teaching and learning practices (Muijis &Harris 2003). Hargreaves cited in Mujis &Harris 2003 states, “Teacher leadership no only implies a commitment to teachers sharing learning but also generation of school wide culture that makes teacher leadership an expectation” (p.440). Katzenmeyer & Mollar, 2001; Ovando 1996 cited in Mujis &Harris (2003) share their research findings, “empowering teachers to take on leadership roles enhance teacher’s self esteem and work satisfaction, which in turn leads to higher levels of performance (p.441). Similarly, Hargreaves 1997 cited in Frost & Durrant (2002) states that, “the development of teachers’ leadership skills, the exponential growths of confidence and self esteem and nurturing of teachers as leaders is fundamental to effective school improvement” (p.157). However In my experience as a teacher of my context I witnessed not only the disempowerment of teachers as they are separated from conceptualization, designing and planning of innovations, but also playing role of technicians by implementing the dictate of educational experts. Status of teachers is followers of daily lesson plans, fixed curriculum, standardized tests and other such paraphernalia imposed by experts’ beliefs and mental models. Furthermore, environment of school is highly formalized and mechanical there has been very little flexibility within the system. It has been organized along strict linear level of education i.e., the stages approach, with artificial separations such as primary, secondary and tertiary. Schooling takes place within inflexible blocks of time and teachers are caught in the crunch of inflexible timetables, which rarely allow teacher with common interest to develop expertise by working collaboratively. Having developed an interest in educational leadership, I intend to learn more about the aspect of teacher leadership. This in fact appears to offer insights on the nature of my future responsibility as a “teacher leader” and will develop my ability to understand how effectively as lead teacher I can use this idea in my context, and issues related will offer a learning experience to seek ways of overcoming them. Lead teachers continue to teach and improve their own and others’ teaching Teacher leaders in first place spend majority of their time in classrooms and ensure quality of teaching and learning by using effective teaching strategies/approaches. They continuously reflect on their own practices for improving their teaching, that at its heart, a process of becoming teacher leaders. Advancing on this idea Little (2000) states that, “Teachers who lead leave their mark on teaching by their presence and their performance, they change how other teachers think about, plan for, and conduct their work with students”(p.396). Displaying their own mastery of classrooms challenges with willingness to take critical feedback from teachers and act on opportunity to improve their own quality of teaching practices. For the purpose to improve of teaching practices of other teachers lead teachers apply educational leadership skills with other teachers such as motivation, mentoring, observing and coaching. Lead teachers observe other classrooms for purpose to obtain ideas, learning from, commenting on and planning and giving constructive feedback for improving classroom teaching and learning practices. They help teachers’ interns to build upon their strengths and apply what they have learned and encourage other teachers to be reflective. Lead teachers nurtured teachers in away that will able to practice their craft and get better. This makes critical difference in lead teacher ability to change from traditional role of coordinator and supervisor to that of teacher educator by developing skills and strategies for clinical model. (Lecos et al. 2000) In order to foster teacher leadership culture in school principal needs to respond distinctly in favorable terms and should take the role of pedagogic leader, display more support for teacher leader initiatives. Welcome lead teachers not only in school initial planning sessions but also in curriculum alignment meetings held at the beginning of each semester. Lead teachers are allowed to review the course syllabi and ensure that school based activities complement the school curriculum and connect theory with practice. For nurturing of teachers as leaders and improving leadership skills in lead teachers, school systems need to provide them opportunities of professional development in form of trainings, attending leadership courses and workshops. The voices of lead teachers who investigate their own and others practice for the purpose of improving student learning must be listened to and respected and praised by school administration if school improvement is to become reality and the knowledge about education further developed. Little (2000) states that, “The prospect of teacher leadership will remain dim if no one distinguish the gains made for students when teachers in large numbers devote their collective attention to curriculum and instruction”(p.412) Build collaboration/partnership with teachers
Lead teachers understand teachers have diverse skills and experiences by developing collaborative culture in school these experiences could be turned into teachers learning opportunities. Lead teachers provide opportunities for teachers to form productive working partnership by displacing traditional norm of privacy and autonomy in classrooms, interacting with other teachers regarding instructional issues and sharing of expertise. They present their classes as model for other teachers to observe successful practices and give feedback this helps to reduce professional isolation of teachers. Lead teachers also build skills and confidence in other teachers through informal instructions, share views on curriculum and organization, schedule joint meetings with teachers and discuss issues of concern and ensured that they are working as a unit of educators. They also do co planning and co teaching with teachers. Lead teachers exert the kind of influence on one another that would enhance success and satisfaction with students, which will reform longstanding patterns of teacher isolation and individual autonomy. The implication of this is clear: senior managers in schools and policy makers need to focus on building of open, collaborative cultures which provides opportunities for learning focus for both teachers and lead teachers, teacher leadership is inclusive or shared and collaborative work is highly valued. School administration also need to rethink and restructure teachers scheduled creatively and design in a way that teachers should be able to meet with lead teachers at particular time for discussing common issues and sharing of knowledge and skills. Thus school structure must genuinely support and encourage collaboration.
This paper has highlighted that how lead teachers can demonstrate leadership at school level by improving their own and other teaching practices and develop expertise by working collaboratively with other teachers. It also tells about the effect of teacher leadership work is maximized, through clearer focus on impact by the teachers themselves and also through the provision of appropriate support. Teacher leaders can work more effectively in supportive conditions and culture in which teachers’ potential for leadership is fully recognized and actively supported by principals, and members of senior managements teams.
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