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TNLI: Action Research: Policy & Practice: Job-Sharing: A Model for Teacher Leadership

by Regla Armengol and Lisa Holm

November 1999

Intense study by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future identified teacher quality as both the primary factor in what students learn and the central strategy for improving schools. Good teachers are almost always role models for colleagues and are sought after by students and parents. They are teacher leaders who play numerous roles, such as mentors, coaches, department chairs, and action research facilitators, in their learning communities. These vital roles foster ongoing professional growth, strengthen teacher expertise, and positively impact student learning and education reform efforts.

Our action research centered on interviews with ten teachers recognized as leaders. These are individuals whose expertise is publicly acknowledged through such varied accolades as National Board Certification, National and State Teachers of the Year awards, Department Chairs, Curriculum Developers, and Beginning Teacher Coaches. Our interviews enabled us to identify the following factors as significant to the development of teacher leaders:

  • A personal invitation or an opportunity provided by an administrator, or other respected educational leader provided the catalyst for taking first steps in leadership;
  • Ongoing support from administrators who value professional growth and an environment structured to stimulate sustained, collaborative work enabled teachers to sustain leadership roles;
  • Veteran teacher leaders served as role-models to other teachers;
  • Teaching other teachers had a regenerative effect on craft and sustained teacher leadership;
  • Supervising preservice teachers and mentoring beginning teachers validated teacher leadership;
  • Recognition of achievement through National Board Certification, and completion of specialized course work advanced teachers along the continuum of leadership.
We wanted to figure out how we could embed these supports for teacher leadership in the teachers' workday; so, we studied a model that currently exists at Bailey's Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia. This model enables one teacher to engage in leadership activities without abandoning her classroom responsibilities.

Teacher Leader Melissa’s Schedule

Half-Day

Second Grade
Classroom Teacher
Language Arts/Social Studies

Half-Day*

Title I Reading
Resource Teacher
Beginning Teacher Coach

*The second half of Melissa’s schedule in the second grade classroom is taught by a classroom teacher who covers for a Reading Recovery teacher in the morning.

Through interviews with the teacher leader and colleagues we identified several benefits of this model:

  • Children are benefiting from working with an expert teacher;
  • The teacher leader has been given career options in which to grow professionally;
  • Colleagues are benefiting from the type of job-embedded professional development activities that provide ongoing support and encouragement.
The challenge, as we see it, is to maximize the leadership potential of this model by adding another teacher leader to this configuration. Consequently, we created a model at the elementary school level which demonstrates one way in which restructuring time and reallocating resources can promote teacher leadership. This model assumes that a resource position and a teaching position are funded by the school system. Rather than taking one teacher completely out of the school to serve as a resource to others, we are cutting both positions in half and distributing the parts among two teacher leaders.

Teacher Leader A

Half-Day

Second Grade
Classroom Teacher

Half-Day

Beginning Teacher
Mentor
Teacher Trainer

Teacher Leader B

Half-Day

Beginning Teacher
Mentor
Teacher Trainer

Half-Day

Second Grade
Classroom Teacher

To raise the level of practice in schools in a systematic manner that can be sustained and become self-generating, teacher leadership must be supported in schools. In light of the critical shortages in the teaching work force that loom on he horizon, we can not afford to continue to lose teacher leaders either to administrative positions or to business and industry. American schools systems can no longer sustain the cost, in both human and monetary terms, of this wasteful practice. To achieve this goal we must restructure the workplace, manipulate time, and provide teacher leaders with an alternative to administration as the only career ladder. Most importantly, retaining the expertise of the teacher leader in the classroom places it with the children where it will have maximum impact on student learning.

Recommendations

  1. Recognize the value of job-embedded professional development in providing a high return for resources invested in student achievement and reallocate resources toward this measure
  2. Restructure time and allocation of human resources to provide opportunity and support for sustained, collaborative interaction among teachers.
  3. Utilize teacher leaders in establishing professional development roles that can realistically and reasonably be accomplished within the boundaries of job-sharing. This takes into account that a teacher leader involved in job-sharing is performing two roles, each on a half-time basis, rather than two full-time roles.
  4. Provide for individual school sites to develop alternative models of job-embedded professional development.
  5. Provide compensatory pay for teacher leaders who assume additional responsibilities.

 

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