The approach to public education is in the biggest reform ever. With Learning Focused Schools, Direct Instruction model, baseline data, teacher performance pay, Multi-Tiered System of Supports, and more, it is more important than ever to have the support of the people whom these reform efforts impact the most, the classroom teacher.
The classroom teacher lives and breathes the effects of reform. They are the catalyst of change, and if change is to occur, then teachers need to be on board in order to maximize the ability of reform efforts. If educational institutions access from within those teachers who are strong and influential to the climate of the learning atmosphere, reform efforts will be embraced and given a fair chance to assist students with being successful learners.
Although this idea seems simple enough, it is not! Teachers are well-educated professionals who do not appreciate a dictatorship. To simply have administration bring down the hammer and mandate new reform will not suffice in the eyes’ of teachers. However, bolstering fellow educators to become teacher leaders aids in the ease of reform efforts. This is so because teachers respect other teachers who are in the middle of the war fighting the good fight. By allowing teacher leaders to foster the way for reform, schools will receive buy-in because the change will move from theory to practice. To an educator, it must be relevant and applicable and this can be achieved through a few steps:
- Identify key educators in your building who are strong teachers, use best practices, and have a positive approach. This will get some of the faculty onboard immediately.
- Work with your literacy coach, media specialist, tech specialist, and key teachers to create monthly training on reform efforts with follow-up support. This will provide factual information to teachers and eliminate misconceptions.
- Allow for common planning opportunities with key stakeholders to integrate new reform efforts into lessons. Teachers helping teachers in similar content areas will open new doors and provides new ideas.
- Provide opportunities for teachers to work together (observe, conference, model, and co-teach). If teachers see something in use by another teacher, they are more likely to try it.
- Display pictures on a bulletin board of positive examples of reform efforts used successfully in key teachers’ classrooms. This will build a positive atmosphere amongst the faculty.
Ultimately, teachers must be leaders if schools are expected to change and improve student outcomes. This change will not occur unless there is trust and a release of power among those overseeing and inside the classroom. Teachers will not choose to foster and maintain a productive learning atmosphere with the use of reform for students to reach their highest potential if steps are not taken to embrace and accept reform efforts from the start.
From building teacher efficacy to improving personal performance, the benefits for having teacher leaders are endless. Step into school reform efforts with a new attitude and allow teachers to place the interest of their students at a level that motivates teachers to desire to take on leadership in the school. Teacher leaders drive change even in the form of reform!
Lisa Fisher is a passionate literacy advocate. In addition to her experiences of being an intensive reading teacher for struggling readers, a literacy coach for middle and high school, and former adjunct instructor at Pasco Hernando Community College, Lisa has written several books, including Surviving the Move and Learning to Thrive (2011) and Read, Discuss, And Learn: Using Literacy Groups To Student Advantage (2010).