The Chalk Blog

Teachers That Lead

It's All About the Verbs


As a former special education administrator, I came to rely on certain teachers to help me lead. There was just no way I could do it all by myself. Thank goodness there were strong teacher leaders in my midst! I couldn’t have done it without them! 

While teacher leadership is defined in a number of ways, Levin and Schrum, authors of Every Teacher a Leader, define it this way: 

The process by which teachers, individually or collectively, influence their colleagues, principals, and other members of school communities to improve teaching and learning practices with the aim of increasing student learning and achievement. Such leadership work involves three intentional development foci: individual development, collaboration or team development, and organizational development. 

Are you this teacher? Do you know this teacher? Could you be this teacher? If so, read on! 

In reflecting on this definition, I find certain words most important, and in my opinion, it’s all about the verbs! Two action words stand out to me:  influence and improve! 

Teacher leaders influence those around them. They impact students, school staff, colleagues, administrators, parents and community members. To do so, they must know what they believe, understand teaching and learning trends and research, communicate well and get involved when necessary! These teachers, “…influence others toward improved educational practice.” Additionally, influencers understand the importance of modeling positive leadership behavior for others! 

It makes perfect sense that the verb improve is included in the definition of teacher leadership as that is truly the overarching goal of education! Teacher leaders work to improve outcomes for students through increasingly effective teaching and learning. With the grand goal of increasing student achievement, they focus on development of their learners, their colleagues and themselves. 

While influence and improve are an excellent start, the verbs don’t stop there. Teachers leaders: 

  • Contribute 
  • Model 
  • Mentor  
  • Share  
  • Accept (responsibility)
  • Ask (questions)
  • Collaborate
  • Listen
  • Communicate
  • Organize
  • Build (relationships) 
  • Problem solve 
  • Facilitate 

The list could go on and on.  

Schrum and Levin tell us, “We need teacher leaders today because no one person can possibly accomplish everything needed to run a school well.” If you want to be a teacher leader, remember the verbs! 

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