“Am I good enough, can I contribute enough, will my ideas be accepted?”
This candid reflection by a teacher leader remains with me years after the conversation (Planche, 2004). The comments offered were somewhat surprising to me as I knew the great reputation of the teacher who was questioning her own credibility as an educator. Having recently been given the role of “Literacy Coach”, and anxious about her new role, the teacher’s questions underscored the importance of confidence and trust in working with peers. As our schools shift to a more deprivatized form of teaching, where the notion of learning together and from each other has gained considerable ground, we must be cognizant of the kind of support teacher leaders need as those who have been deemed as ‘knowledgeable others’ in our schools. Teacher leaders often carry a significant teaching load along with mentoring/coaching responsibilities to assist their peers. Increasingly, systemic leadership is recognizing that teacher leaders are now central to school change and are equally important as those with more formal leadership positions.
Drago-Severson (2009) suggests that the time has come for educators to consider how we shape schools as ‘mentoring communities’ or ‘learning centers’. Learning centers as Drago-Severson defines them “are schools and school systems that nurture and support the growth and learning of children, youth and adults” (p. 6). A ‘mentoring community’ sets the stage for collaborative learning and where educators support and challenge each other to grow (p. 7). As teacher leadership steps to the foreground, the role of the principal is certainly impacted. Kohn and Nance (2009) suggest that to nurture a positive change in a school, school administrators need to foster a climate of working together. In a collaborative culture, the principal’s role is able to shift to from being the person who sets the goals to being the person who sets up the conditions that allow others to establish collective goals (p. 69). Pivotal to moving school goals beyond rhetoric to action and focussed work together as a school staff, principals, vice principals and teacher leaders need to work together in effective and collaborative ways (Sharratt & Planche, 2016). .
The power of the collective is key, suggests Michael Fullan (in Crow, 2009) and that the ingredients for sustainable professional learning are multi-faceted including “developing effective leaders, identifying high yield strategies, focussing on every child, emphasizing collaborative learning and leveraging the entire system towards learning for all” (p. 13). The leadership of public school systems know much more today about what to do, and why mobilizing learning for adults as well as students is critical. As an adjunct to “what to do”, systemic leadership also needs to become clear on the supports that nurture key individuals in every school who are perceived to be or will become the leaders, the lead learners, catalysts and supporters of the growth of others – in other words those who become the ‘knowledgeable others’ in our reform processes.“
How does your system support those aspiring to become the catalysts and supporters of the growth of others?
Crow, T. (Dec. 2009). Proof Positive – a Conversation with Michael Fullan. Journal of Staff Development. 30(5).
Drago-Severson, E. (2009). Leading Adult Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA. Corwin Press/NDSC
Kohn, B. & Nance, B. (Oct. 2009). Creating Collaborative Cultures, Educational Leadership, 67(2)..ASCD,
Planche, B. (2004). Probing the complexities of collaboration and collaborative processes. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Toronto, Ontario. Canada.
Sharratt, L. & Planche, B. (2016). Leading Collaborative Learning: Empowering Excellence.Corwin Press.
My area of sustained interest is understanding the complexities of collaboration and their impact on learning in the classroom and in the workplace. The growing interest in pedagogies which promote an inquiry stance or more constructivist engagement also really resonates for me.