Teacher leaders have high expectations of themselves exemplified through choosing textbooks and instructional materials; shaping the curriculum; setting standards for student behavior; deciding whether students are tracked into special classes; designing staff development and inservice programs; setting promotion and retention policies; deciding school budget; evaluating teacher performance; selecting new teachers; and selecting new administrators. (Barth 1999)
John has not been denied decision-making power and he makes the decisions. Decisions that directly affect his work – textbooks and curriculum, assessment, scheduling, class placement, assignment of specialists, allocation of budget and materials – are made by John not be some “experts” at higher levels. (Moncur 2001 Teacher Leader Paper) (Boles and Troen 1998) Tied in with having high expectations of themselves is the whole matter of accountability. Teacher leaders preach and practice accountability. John, the teacher I interviewed, is clearly a teacher leader because he desires an accountability system amongst teachers. Not only that he is devoted to exercising and fostering accountability amongst teachers.
Real teacher-leaders hold themselves “accountable – to each other and to . . . students”(Evans 1985). John mentioned that “it is almost impossible for a teacher to get fired”. John’s vision is that “there would be a better accountability system in the school system”. High expectations also involves a desire to remain in the profession. Teacher leaders love their profession and try to remain in it in spite of the various hurl blocks that exist. John, teacher leadership interviewee, has no plans to leave the profession. From the readings we see competent, skilled, and effective teachers who merely see their teacher career as a transition toward something “better”.
Teachers also apply the belief of high expectations of themselves to the high amount of hours they devote to the profession. Teacher leaders go above and beyond the time constraints of the school day. The teachers from the articles were certainly not the 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. teachers most of us know and some of us are. Ted manages an enormous workload and an exhaustive schedule. He works 10 hour days between the school and office, and then works evenings correcting papers, writing for professional journals, creating his own curriculum guides, and corresponding with board members, fellow teachers, or policymakers.
For all of Gwen’s responsibilities in her school she was paid a regular teacher’s salary. Gwen held major leadership roles in her life outside school in a church and social organization. Mary spent long hours at work. She seldom left the school before 5 PM, she worked most evenings and part of the weekend as well. Mary and Barbara would go home to eat, to plan for the next day, and to review student work. “Mary frequently rallied against the traditional union stance – no more pay/no more work which she heard from some of the teachers with whom she worked. Her belief was that she was a professional and, as such, had a professional responsibility to put in as much time as was necessary for her to do her very best”(p.526).
Teacher leaders are multicultural in their instruction. Teacher leaders give an account of disenfranchised groups in subject lessons. Such would do well to promote self-esteem amongst ethnic-racial minorities. Collins always addressed the perspectives of colored people in his social studies lessons. He refused to have his colored students learn about themselves from a deficit point of view. Anyon discovered potentially controversial subjects were not or hardly ever address in the social studies classes and text of the working class schools. Anyon further notes that many of the text books give little information on the contributions of working class people to history.
Furthermore, teacher leaders engage students in the richest types of learning experiences possible; not just the basic classroom teacher centered instruction. Williams taught her students as if they were a part of the “Affluent Professional School” as described in Anyon’s article. Williams mentioned community involvement and the various active participatory methods she had her students engage in. Things such as “individual discovery and creativity” (Anyon, p.17,23). Collins addressed “touchy” issues just as the affluent school did. “It discussed at length such topics as social class, the power of dominant ideas, and competing world views” (Anyon, p.19). Deal, Anyon, and Collins address the challenge to be reactionary and proactive teachers; as well as teachers who critically assessed the curriculum. In fact, Deal writes about breaking the cultural norms.
Teacher leaders understand, adapt to and change school culture. I would define school culture as a set of beliefs the members (teachers, administrators, students, staff) of the school hold about their school, beliefs they have inherited and passed on to their successors. Professor Boles mentioned (lecture 2001) we see the goal of the teacher is to make choices strategically. Teachers look at and understand the culture that surrounds the school. Schein (1985) Organizational Culture and Leadership believes leaders create organizational culture. Therefore, it goes to reason that teacher leaders can create organizational culture.
Barney B. (lecture 2001) discussed the four rules of change: language, artifacts, people, and enactment. Schein (1985) examines interactive complexity where in I deduced that the key to teacher leadership success is skillful leaders who are able to balance their own and the organization’s (school’s) purposes. The teacher leader seeks to: determine in what ways the school is unique and in what ways it resembles other schools, identify who yields influence on and off campus, assess the quality of the chief administrators, and scan the environment for signals of things in need of attention. A true teacher leader is wise to read everything he/she could find on the school, study the history, and speak with colleagues.
Susan Johnson was actively involved in changing the culture of her school to bring about greater gains in student learning. She wrote a proposal for a drop out prevention program and obtain funding from the Department of Education. (Molly Meltser 2001) Teacher “leaders lead by exemplifying the values and behaviors they want others to adopt” (Elmore 1999-2000). Not only do teacher leaders understand culture but they are adaptable or they can adapt to diverse school settings.
A true teacher leader should be effective in a predominantly minority and economically disadvantaged community as well as in a majority economically strong community. Furthermore, sometimes teacher leaders have culturally radical beliefs and/or cultural radical reform agendas. The Collins article and the Anyon article pointed to the advantages, disadvantages and challenges of capitalism versus socialism. Collins holds culturally radical beliefs expressed as “I believe that socialism would be better system for organizing society” (p. 179) Anyon discusses several merits, challenges or problems of capitalism, noting that to be a capitalist one must actually exploit others. Sonja Harding acknowledged that her teaching is unorthodox. She uses Ebonics and Standard English and teaches the children to adapt to both. (Simmons Lettre 2001)
A true teacher leader is serious about “creating communities that foster interdependency” (Cook 1995, p.41). Barth (1999) writes about opportunities for teacher leadership. These opportunities come about through leading by following, joining the team, leading alone, or/and leading by example. John said “leadership roles come about through interdisciplinary work”. Many opportunities exist in the school for teachers to assume leadership.
“Many teachers work together as a team, therefore, in that case some leadership takes place” (John 2001 Interview). Cook (1995) speaks of teachers as being team players. John is a team player because throughout the interview he mentioned working with others as a team. Leadership has often been defined in terms of the individual but a true leader garners the respect and participation of other teachers in the school with projects that they have a vision for.
John always provides strategies for teacher collaboration. Sonja Harding defines teacher leadership as “sharing what you know and what you do best and sharing with the community”. (Lettre 2001) Susan recognized that change agents can only be productive when they have the support of others: “Corporate entrepreneurs acquire their power through mobilizing others as collaborators; they are not ‘solo artists'” (Melster 2001) (Kanter 1984)