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The term teacher leadership refers to that set of skills demonstrated by teachers who continue to teach students but also have an influence that extends beyond their own classrooms to others within their own school and elsewhere. It entails mobilizing and energizing others with the goal of improving the school's performance of its critical responsibilities related to teaching and learning. Mobilizing and energizing does not occur because of the role of the leader as boss (as might be the case with a principal), but rather because the individual is informed and persuasive. Therefore, an important characteristic of a teacher leader is expertise and skill in engaging others in complex work. It also entails an unwavering passion for the core mission of the school and the courage to confront obstacles to achieving that mission.
Because improvement of a school's performance frequently involves doing things differently from how they have been done in the past, teacher leadership often requires managing a process of change. But this is not always the case. Many times, improvement occurs when teacher leaders motivate colleagues to become more skilled and thoughtful regarding their work, encouraging them not to do things differently but to do them better. At other times, of course, teacher leaders recognize an opportunity to institute a practice that will improve the school's program. In those situations, teacher leadership does require convincing others to use a new approach, but the change process involved is not that of implementing a new program, in which the stages of concern have been well documented (Loucks-Horsley, 1996). Rather, it is a professional exploration of practice.