Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Blog Post #4- Selecting Teacher Leaders

This week Rachel & I interviewed my principal to obtain some information about my district’s current mentoring program.  Rachel and I are working together on our Teach to Lead project and we are working to improve the mentoring programs at both of our schools.  One current complaint that my principal had was the way our district goes about choosing mentors to work with the new teachers.  My principal specifically said that mentors should be teacher leaders and it seems that some mentors should not have been given their role to begin with (because they are not teacher leaders).  So this led me to question: How do you find and select teacher leaders?

I read an article from the Teacher-Led Professional Learning site titled, “Selecting Teacher-Leaders.”  In the article they discussed three areas that should be addressed when selecting teacher leaders.  Those areas are, demonstrated job skills, observable behavioral competencies, and prior evidence of success.  Demonstrated job skills refers to the skills that are highlighted in the job description of each teacher.  Observable behavioral competencies refers to the habits of behavior that could help predict how an individual would react and perform in certain tasks.  And finally, prior evidence of success looks to address your track record-have you met your goals at a high level of performance?  These three areas don’t seem to be too confusing, right?  Wrong!  Because they are so broad they can be used to select a variety of teacher leader roles, however this also makes it difficult for administration to develop a selection process for each type of teacher leader role.

Specifics are needed in every area to select teacher leaders and honestly this can be a lot of work for a principal.  Specific job descriptors are needed for each type of teacher leader job, and admin needs to discuss which behavioral competencies are the most important to have for each role they are trying to fill.  I’m sure you’re getting the order for things to be fair they need to be laid out clearly.  I think this can be done it’s just finding the time to do it.  Once a clear set of expectations is put in place for how teacher leaders can be selected for different roles within a school (whether it’s team leader, mentors, coaches, etc) multiple buildings can share that information within a district to use across multiple levels.  What I’m wondering is does anyone know or have a list of selection areas for teacher leaders in your buildings?  I would love to see some of the requirements if you have them!

Here is the link to the article that I referenced:  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Blog Post #3- What To Do When the PD isn't Offered for You?

Alright, so I’m going in a different direction for this third blog post and I’ll admit I took this idea from many of you in class based on your blog topics from last week.  I was reading Jackie’s post on special education and thinking about the clinical project that we have coming up and I agreed that I wasn’t nearly versed enough in the field of special ed.  So, as an emerging teacher leader I chose to find a blog that focused on teaching students with special needs.  Where was I going to look for this blog?  I took some advice from Chelsea’s blog post on an amazing woman who was blogging and creating podcasts and started there.  Low and behold, I found a great post titled “Creating a Welcoming Classroom for Students with Special Needs” by Jennifer Gonzalez.  I have attached the link for anyone who is wanting to take a look!

Teacher leaders need to be able to recognize where their own learning is lacking.  Teacher leaders need to be able to self reflect and take action when needed.  Teaching students with special needs is a topic that I have never received PD on and quite frankly I’m not sure if anything like that has ever been offered in my district.  So, I’ve used this opportunity to research the topic through teacher blogs!  Special education and teaching students with special needs is an area that I know I could grow in.  In the blog post, Jennifer admits that her first time working with special ed students was when she had 12 students with IEPs in her classroom and she was at a loss of how to manage a room with such diverse needs.  The one 3-hour college class that was devoted to special education was not sufficient training for her to succeed.  Jennifer interviewed Jam Gamble, a special ed teacher, in a podcast and Jam had some great ideas for regular ed. teachers to use.  

One of the suggestions that stood out to me was for teachers to express their fears and concerns.  Jam suggested emailing parents right at the start of the year.  “Ask them about their child. How was their summer? How was school last year? What were goals that you wanted to see manifest last year but didn’t manifest that we could focus on this year? What are things they’re doing outside the school that we could incorporate into their lessons?”  These are questions that I will be asking at the start of next year.  This would help build that connection with parents before the year even starts.  Asking for help and acknowledging that you may need help isn’t something to be ashamed of.  In fact I would hope that parents find this type of communication refreshing.

Teacher leaders need to be involved with all stakeholder groups.  Building this communication with parents at the beginning of the year would ensure that teachers, parents, and students are all on the same page.  Jam goes on to talk about including culturally relevant lessons, consulting with building specialists, reading books that promote diversity and inclusion, and recognizing parents struggles and fears as other helpful suggestions for working with students with special needs.  

I look forward to continuing to look into teaching students with special needs as this is going to be my focus for the clinical project.  

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Blog Post #2- The Many Roles of Teacher Leaders

Teacher leaders are needed in a building to bridge the gap between staff members and the principal.  As I was looking for ideas for my proposal I landed on the issue of teacher retention.  It’s crazy to think that the teacher retention rates are so low today.  The article that inspired this blog post was “Teacher Leadership as a Key to To Educational Innovation,” written by the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality (2010).  The article stated that many teachers enter the profession with a passion for the field, but many also admit that they don’t see themselves teaching in the classroom for their entire career.  Now when I first read this I was surprised to think that so many teachers actually believed that they would change careers, but then I thought about this statement a little more.  Today, there are so many more positions available within a building then there was in the past.  Before, it was pretty much classroom teacher or admin.  Whereas, today we see a variety of positions being created to support the classroom teachers.  So, maybe this statement in the article was moreso related to the fact that teachers felt there was no room for them to grow within the walls of their building.  Although teacher leaders can be classroom teachers as well, teacher leaders are becoming vital to the effectiveness of a school.  There is so much more room for educators to grow today and we need to be preparing our new teachers for those opportunities.

The article specifically talks about how teacher leaders should be involved in the recruitment and hiring process for new teachers in the district. Teachers leaders could potentially help attract greater talent to the school, as well as, help identify candidates who would fit well into the school culture.  Teacher leaders should be used in the mentoring programs at schools to observe and meet with the first year teachers.  There needs to be a shift or change in the mentoring programs (or at least I feel that way about my district) so that first year teachers grow exponentially in those first few years.  Teachers need to feel supported and safe to take risks in their classroom.  Having teacher leaders be a part of the mentoring program could potentially affect the teacher retention rate.  Well-trained teachers would continue to grow in their respective classrooms and would be able to move into leadership positions later in their career.  The article (2010), suggests that teacher leaders should be staffed according to specific specializations, such as community liaison, content facilitator, technology practitioner, and instruction coach.  Perhaps we will see these positions open up within districts in the coming years.     

Sunday, February 19, 2017

MTL 528 Blog Post #1: Should Teacher Leaders be Responsible for Evaluating their Peers?

In the business world, a manager is typically responsible for evaluating his/her team which can be comprised of seven or less people.  However, in a school building, the principal is responsible for completing evaluations for the entire staff!  Depending on the size of the building, that could be as many as 100 teacher evaluations.  These expectations are impossible to meet, so another solution is needed...Teacher Leader Evaluators!

According to Linda Hammond (2013), teacher evaluators exist in 13 states through PAR (peer assistance and review) programs.  These teachers, referred to as consulting teachers, have been chosen to evaluate fellow teachers in the same subject area or grade level.  Consulting teachers do not have the authority to approve or reject a teacher for re-hire, this is done through a panel of both consulting teachers and administrators.  Consulting teachers go through an intense selection process, which includes interviews, classroom observations, peer recommendations, and teaching experience.  Consulting teachers are also paid an annual stipend.

After reading the article, “When Teachers Support & Evaluate Their Peers”, I am intrigued by the PAR program.  I’ve always thought that teachers evaluating other teachers was more of a conflict of interests, however I’m starting to change my mind on this topic.  Teachers are much more in tune with what is happening in the classroom and how that relates to the curriculum.  It is very difficult for administrators to stay familiar with all the curriculum programs that are being used in their building.  It does make sense for teachers to evaluate their peers for this reason.  

The primary goal of the PAR program was, “not to get rid of bad teachers but to further develop good ones” (Hammond, p. 27).  When we think about teacher retention rates, being supported by teacher leaders would increase retention rates.  When teachers feel supported they are more likely to take chances in their profession.  Not only do the teachers being observed benefit in this program, but so do the consulting teachers-both groups become better teachers.  So after reading some of the benefits of the PAR program I would be open to the idea of having teacher leaders complete evaluations.

Hammond, L.  (2013).  When teachers support & evaluate their peers.  Educational Leadership, 71(2), 24-29.