What does it mean to be a teacher leader?

Just this morning I got around to watching Julie Reulbach’s keynote from TMC. I had seen on Twitter the #TeacherLeader posts and the stickers, but wanted to know what it was all about. I was especially intrigued because earlier in the summer I had read an article (which of course I cannot find now) revolving around the question: “Why do teacher leaders feel they need to leave the classroom?” As I remember it, the point was that there is no one better to lead teachers than teachers. I think that also ties into a common criticism that I hear of administrators that they forget what it feels like to be in the classroom.

While I am about to enter my ninth year of teaching, I decided pretty early on in my teaching career that I probably wouldn’t stay in the classroom until I retired. I didn’t know quite what that would look like, but I pursued a Master’s as a math specialist and have moved from a very small school to a much larger one all with this general career trajectory in mind. At my small school, I served on their “Academic Leadership Team” and learned how to find my voice and consider topics that affected the school at large. At my larger school, I was able to take part in a “Leadership Academy” for those wanting to explore leadership (mostly in traditional administrative roles). For this upcoming school year, I was hired to be a co-ITL (Instructional Team Lead) for our math department. While I am excited and energized by all of these things, at times there is a voice wondering “why me?” or “can I really do this?”

For those reasons Julie’s points about imposter syndrome really spoke to me, especially how social media can exacerbate the problem by promoting all of the fabulous lessons, ground-breaking books, exciting technology, etc. that everyone else is developing. I was also encouraged by her point that its not those official roles that we play outside of the classroom that make us teacher leaders, it is the ways that we support colleagues, whether in our schools or online, that shows that we are teacher leaders.

Throughout her keynote, Julie asks the audience to stop and tweet their answers to 3 prompts. I have included my responses here as well.

  1. I am a great teacher because I seek to improve my teaching practice and work to meet each student where they are at.
  2. I am a teacher leader because I love sharing resources with my colleagues and encouraging them to try something new.
  3. I want to grow as a teacher leader this year by encouraging those around me to find ways that they can step up and support the people around them. It is not just the responsibility of those in official leadership capacities to support teachers; we all have something to bring to the table.

Will I stay in the classroom until retirement? l don’t know (and that’s a long way away), but I can tell you that I do have a different perception of my influence on those working around me. I also hope to be able to infuse this model of teacher leadership throughout my department.


This post is part of a blogging challenge called Blaugust. Click here to check out the other blogs that are participating.

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