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Tool: Engaging 2nd- and 3rd-year teachers in professional activities and leadership roles

Question: What opportunities are available in your school for teachers to participate in professional activities and assume leadership roles?

Purpose of this Tool: This tool is designed to help you provide opportunities for teachers to participate in school decisions and assume leadership roles. There is considerable evidence that when teachers are ready and able to assume leadership responsibilities outside the classroom. This can have positive effects on their performance in the classroom, their relationships with colleagues and their attitudes towards teaching. This tool will help you identify potential leadership roles for all teachers, particularly 2nd- and 3rd-year teachers, as well as strategies for engaging them in these roles.

How to use this tool: Individuals can use this tool to reflect on the leadership opportunities available for 2nd- and 3rd-year teachers in their schools, obstacles to engaging them in leadership responsibilities and strategies for overcoming these obstacles. It will be more powerful, though, to use this tool with a group that involves the principal, other school administrators and teachers with a range of experience levels in the school.

Below, the tool delineates ten areas in which teachers can potentially assume leadership roles. For each area, you will be asked to do the following:

  • Identify current opportunities for teachers to assume leadership roles
  • Examine potential obstacles to engaging teachers in leadership roles
  • Determine strategies principals can employ to promote leadership among all teachers, especially 2nd- and 3rd-year teachers

Please note that most beginning teachers do well to focus primarily on teaching and student learning in their first year of teaching. Principals can play an important role in helping new teachers identify their leadership strengths and interests and in providing opportunities for them to gain experience in those areas specific to the school context. But it is also important for school leaders to let new teachers determine when and how to exercise their professional leadership.


Engaging teachers in professional activities and leadership roles

Areas in which teachers can provide input and assume leadership roles

Teachers’ ability to work with students is influenced by a number of school policies and organizational conditions including the following:

  1. Selecting textbooks and instructional materials
  2. Writing curriculum
  3. Developing student assessments
  4. Setting standards for student behavior and discipline
  5. Recommending students for Title I and other special academic services
  6. Designing staff development activities
  7. Setting grade promotion and retention policies
  8. Making budget decisions
  9. Selecting new teachers
  10. Selecting new administrators

Research indicates that when teachers 1) have input into decisions related to school policies and 2) assume leadership roles, this can have a positive influence on their instructional practice, relationships with colleagues and attitudes towards teaching. At the same time, though, there are often obstacles that inhibit them from engaging in professional activities.


Obstacles to engaging teachers in professional activities and leadership roles

Teachers may be reluctant to engage in professional activities and assume leadership roles because they are concentrating on their teaching and student learning. In addition, they may lack time and/or perceive that they already have too many responsibilities. They may experience pressure from their teacher union and inertia, caution, skepticism and/or active resistance from colleagues. Another potential obstacle is pressure due to No Child Left Behind and state accountability systems to focus on student testing. Finally, for some teachers, their personal and interpersonal skills may limit their ability to assume leadership roles.


Strategies for promoting engagement in professional activities and teacher leadership

In response to real or perceived obstacles, there are a number of strategies principals can employ to engage teachers in professional activities and leadership positions:

  1. Publicly communicate expectations related to teacher leadership to all teachers
  2. Distribute responsibility for making decisions to teachers; provide leadership opportunities based on teachers’ areas of expertise, interests and skills
  3. Recognize different types of leadership: participation in teams, leading by example, assuming a formal leadership role
  4. Establish and maintain trust with all teachers, including teacher leaders
  5. Publicly support and protect teachers who are in leadership positions
  6. Give credit for successes to teacher leaders
  7. Publicly share responsibility for difficulties/failures with teacher leaders


Additional strategies for providing opportunities for 2nd- and 3rd-year teachers

  1. Determine 2nd- and 3rd-year teachers’ areas of expertise, interests, skills and professional goals
  2. Provide opportunities for new teachers to participate in professional activities based on their areas of expertise, interests, skills and professional goals

References:

  • Barth, R. (2001). Teacher leader. Phi Delta Kappan, 82(6), 443-449.
  • Smylie, M.A., & Hart, A.W. (1999). School leadership for teacher learning and change: A human and social capital perspective. In J. Murphy & K.S. Louis (eds.), Handbook of research on educational administration (2nd ed.) (pp.421-440). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Spillane, J.P., Halverson, R., & Diamond, J.B. (2001). Distributed leadership: Toward a theory of school leadership practice. Educational Researcher, 30(3), 23-28.


Tool: Engaging 2nd- and 3rd-Year teachers in professional activities and leadership roles

This tool is designed to help principals determine beginning teachers’ areas of expertise, interests, skills, and professional goals; and to devise strategies to engage them in professional activities. For each of the ten areas of school policy, you are to assess teachers’ level of knowledge and identify current opportunities for them to provide input into school decisions. As most new teachers will need to focus almost exclusively on teaching and learning in their first year, this tool should primarily be used with 2nd- and 3rd-year teachers as well as those with more experience.

1. Selecting textbooks and instructional materials

Yes
No
Next steps

1. Have school administrators had in-depth conversations with 2nd- and 3rd-year teachers about textbooks and instructional materials to determine their background knowledge regarding these matters?

 

   
2. Are opportunities provided in grade-level or department meetings for these teachers to provide input into the selection of textbooks and instructional materials?      
3. Are opportunities provided in faculty meetings for these teachers to provide input into the selection of textbooks and instructional materials?      

4. Do these teachers have any other opportunities to provide input into the selection of textbooks and instructional materials?

 

   

 

2. Shaping curriculum

Yes
No
Next steps

1. Have school administrators had in-depth conversations with 2nd- and 3rd-year teachers about subject matter and content standards to determine their background knowledge regarding these matters?

 

   
2. Are opportunities provided in grade-level or department meetings for these teachers to engage in curriculum mapping-– aligning national, state, and local standards?      
3. Are opportunities provided in grade-level or department meetings for these teachers to determine year-end expectations for students?      

4. Do these teachers have any other opportunities to provide input into the curriculum?

 

   

 

3. Shaping student assessment

Yes
No
Next steps

1. Have school administrators had in-depth conversations with 2nd- and 3rd-year teachers about student assessment to determine their background knowledge regarding these matters?

 

   
2. Are opportunities provided in grade-level or department meetings for these teachers to provide input about student assessment practices?      
3. Are opportunities provided for these teachers to design and implement measures to look at student growth and development beyond standardized test scores?      

4. Do these teachers have any other opportunities to provide input into student assessment practices?

 

   

 

4. Setting standards for student behavior and discipline

Yes
No
Next steps

1. Have school administrators had in-depth conversations with 2nd- and 3rd-year teachers about issues related to student behavior and discipline to determine their background knowledge regarding these matters?

 

   
2. Are opportunities provided in grade-level or department meetings for these teachers to provide input into policies related to student behavior and discipline?      
3. Are opportunities provided in faculty meetings for these teachers to provide input into policies related to student behavior and discipline?      

4. Do these teachers have any other opportunities to provide input into policies related to student behavior and discipline?

 

   

 

5. Assigning students to special education classes

Yes
No
Next steps

1. Have school administrators had in-depth conversations with 2nd- and 3rd-year teachers about issues related to students with special needs to determine their background knowledge regarding these matters?

 

   
2. Are opportunities provided in grade-level or department meetings for these teachers to provide input into class assignments for students with special needs?      
3. Are opportunities provided in faculty meetings for these teachers to provide input into class assignments for students with special needs?      

4. Do these teachers have any other opportunities to provide input into class assignments for students with special needs?

 

   

 

6. Designing staff development activities

Yes
No
Next steps

1. Have school administrators had in-depth conversations with 2nd- and 3rd-year teachers about issues related to teacher professional development to determine their background knowledge regarding these matters?

 

   
2. Are opportunities provided in grade-level or department meetings for these teachers to provide input into the content of staff development activities?      
3. Are opportunities provided in faculty meetings for these teachers to provide input into the content of staff development activities?      

4. Do these teachers have any other opportunities to provide input into the content of staff development activities?

 

   

 

7. Setting grade promotion and retention policies

Yes
No
Next steps

1. Have school administrators had in-depth conversations with 2nd- and 3rd-year teachers about issues related to grade promotion and retention to determine their background knowledge regarding these matters?

 

   
2. Are opportunities provided in grade-level or department meetings for these teachers to provide input into grade promotion or retention policies?      
3. Are opportunities provided in faculty meetings for these teachers to provide input into grade promotion or retention policies?      

4. Do these teachers have any other opportunities to provide input into grade promotion or retention policies?

 

   

 

8. School budget decisions

Yes
No
Next steps

1. Have school administrators had in-depth conversations with 2nd- and 3rd-year teachers about issues related to school budget issues to determine their background knowledge regarding these matters?

 

   
2. Are opportunities provided in grade-level or department meetings for these teachers to provide input into school budget decisions?      
3. Are opportunities provided in faculty meetings for these teachers to provide input into school budget decisions?      

4. Do these teachers have any other opportunities to provide input into school budget decisions?

 

   

 

9. Selecting new teachers

Yes
No
Next steps

1. Have school administrators had in-depth conversations with 2nd- and 3rd-year teachers about issues related to hiring other new teachers to determine their background knowledge regarding these matters?

 

   
2. Are opportunities provided in grade-level or department meetings for these teachers to provide input into the selection of new teachers?      
3. Are opportunities provided in faculty meetings for these teachers to provide input into the selection of new teachers?      

4. Do these teachers have any other opportunities to provide input into the selection of new teachers?

 

   

 

10. Selecting new administrators

Yes
No
Next steps

1. Have school administrators had in-depth conversations with 2nd- and 3rd-year teachers about issues related to hiring new administrators to determine their background knowledge regarding these matters?

 

   
2. Are opportunities provided in grade-level or department meetings for these teachers to provide input into the selection of new administrators?      
3. Are opportunities provided in faculty meetings for these teachers to provide input into the selection of new administrators?      

4. Do these teachers have any other opportunities to provide input into the selection of new administrators?

 

   

 

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