Being a teacher leader is acknowledgement of your skills, experiences, and expertise in the classroom and your ability to work with your peers. This leadership role is no easy task. Peers do not respond as easily or in the same ways as the students who we teach. Effecting and nurturing systemic culture change take time and energy.
Here are some considerations as you embark on a path to serving your peers:
- Attend to foundational needs for logistics and resources
Make sure that the core resources are available to staff. Equipment, software, internet access, bandwidth, accounts, and other tools need to be in the hands of the people using them. Collect data on who does not have the basics and report the information to those who are responsible for providing the tools. Like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the staff will not feel able to proceed with full scale implementation if not fully equipped to do so.
- Organize the staff into groups based on level of needed support
Like a classroom of students, staff expertise and experiences may widely vary.
Some will be highly experienced with the tools and programs that are being implemented. They may need periodic check-ins to ensure they are fully supplied to surge ahead. Feed them resources and stay out of their way.
This group are learning as they go. Their needs may be situational. Keep their momentum going forward by supplying them with tools and guidance based on building their base and helping them to proceed with minimal frustration. If this group experiences problems with implementation, be responsive to their needs as much as possible to keep them from sliding into the next group.
This group generally has the best of intentions and see the value of the initiative being implemented. However, they either move forward at a glacial pace or have reasons for why the program can not be done as is, such as not enough time, limited resources, or too difficult for students. This group may need more individual and smaller group support than any other category. It is possible to spend more energy with this group at the sacrifice of time with the others. Start support by being strategic in who and what support you provide. Begin with those who are most receptive with 2-3 starting steps that help them take a productive path. Leverage small group support based on commonly rising needs. Depending on how time permits, you can scale up and down individual support as needed.
- Anticipate and Automate access to common resource needs
Listen closely to the needs expressed by peers. Curate their concerns into resources that you provide on a public curation site such as a shared document or classroom (community) space. For example, if SeeSaw, Google Classroom, or Microsoft Teams is being used, collect how to videos and articles from these sites and provide an annotated list. Search other sites like Youtube for video tutorials to add. If no resource is available make your own screen recording using such tools as Screencastify or the recorder on a phone or tablet. Maintain the annotated list of such resources on the public site. Collect resources from your network of teacher leaders and peers, especially from the Power Users who may already have done the research for you.
- Communicate regular updates and surveys
As you maintain an updated resources list, share those updates and successful practices by teachers on a regular basis. Consider sending out communications either once a week or twice a month. Include 1-2 new ideas and/or resources in a short email. If there is more information, include those details in the public curation site. Periodically, such as every 2-3 months send out a short survey to collect staff needs and found resources. Address needs and share the resources on the public curated site and communications.
- Provide scheduled sessions for support on common needs
Offer support sessions that are 30 minutes. These are short and hyper focused on one need. Offer these sessions 1-2 times a week. If done virtually, record them so that they can be updated to your resource library on the public curated site. Invite peers to share needs that can be included in these scheduled events. Surveys can be informative for this purpose.
Teacher leaders generally are responsible for teaching students. Time can become challenging to meet their students’ needs and fulfilling the expectations of their peers’ needs. Use the above list of suggestions as way to maximize time while doing your part to support the powerful and productive changes in your school that could have a positive and lasting impact for your staff and students.