Step aside, Mr. Principal!

Pay your lead teachers, in release periods, to work with the staff as coaches and mentors on a daily basis. NOT AN ADMINISTRATIVE POSITION!

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We have experts already on school campuses. While principals can do a great job of managing programs and personnel, they may fall short when it comes to teacher support; they are not the experts. Teachers are the experts. While it costs money to give release periods, it can pay dividends in the classroom. Give lead teachers a 20% release period to work with their peers on a daily basis to provide support, insight, coordination of curriculum, lesson design, etc. Maybe a 20% release period for every 5 teachers on staff. NOT a full position! The lead teachers must teach 60-80%, lest they forget what it likes to be a part of the rigid daily structure.

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Photo of Charles Shryock, IV
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Should this kind of release be reserved only for more veteran teachers? I wonder if there would be benefits to giving newer teachers the same opportunity to explore and support what's happening in other classrooms. 

Photo of David Casey
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Charles,
I want to make a distinction between exploration and support, that you mention in your comment. Yes, newer teachers should be able to explore the work of other teachers. I describe that somewhat in my earlier posts that we should have teachers share classrooms and even team teach, especially regarding newer teachers. But as far as supporting other teachers: I think there can be a discomfort on the part of older teachers if a young upstart with 5 or fewer years of teaching experience makes comments or suggestions to that veteran teacher. I don't care how good they are, it's hard to take advice from someone who could be 20 years your junior. And, I do have my doubts about the knowledge of a new teacher, even with extensive training. Let's let them get their feet wet and earn earn their badges before formally supporting others. Informally their can support their colleagues as much as they want. But in a paid, public position, I think we can find veteran teachers who are respected by school faculty to fill the position that I am envisioning.

Photo of Ashley Haskins
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I appreciate this idea so much! I like redefining Lead Teacher, not substitute administrator. The lead teacher role being specific to leading PD, new strategies, programs, assisting with curriculum, connecting with existing programs and supporting with testing data etc. It is a great way to support PD in a school and district!

Photo of David Casey
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Ashley,
Thanks for your comment. It helps me to clarify how you have interpreted my idea. I'm am still hearing to many phrases that sound like administrative tasks. When you use the words "programs" and "testing data" you are moving into what I refer to administrative tasks.
The role I am talking about is one that remains in direct contact with teachers, more like a coach. Nearly all of the lead teacher's time should be spent observing, questioning, collaborating, and networking with on-site teachers. This role is not meant to be an extended arm of the principal. That administrator cannot ask the lead teacher to push his or her agenda or the latest mandate from the DO. The point here is "professional development" and that means helping classroom teachers with curriculum, lesson design, assessment, management and the myriad of other things that teachers need help with. If the lead teacher is meeting with the superintendent, or having meetings with other lead teachers, or is spending a good deal of time writing emails, then they are not working with other teachers, which is the real reason for the role.

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV
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Got it:  Definitely the core of your idea is on direct contact with teachers. 

Photo of Brad Fiege
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Hi David,

Great idea! The district I work in (Greece Central in New York State) has a Teacher Leader program that is similar to your idea. I am a teacher leader and teacher. I teach three sections a day then I am released to work with other teachers or receive PD (in fact, that is how I learned about DT). As teacher leaders we are not administrators but have the opportunity to work with our Admin and bring up concerns and needs of students and teachers. We even led PD with the staff. It certainly has its ups and downs but has changed the culture within our building and in our district. 

Photo of David Casey
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Brad,
Wow! That's great to hear. Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm glad to know that there is a model for this idea. And it sounds like you are working out some of the bugs. If it has made a change in the culture, then it must be doing something right. (I'm assuming it has been a positive change). I'd love to hear what some of the down sides are to your role as teacher leader. Please feel free to be brief, as I'm sure you could write volumes and if you're doing the job right, you probably are swamped with work. 
Thanks again for your comment.

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV
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Definitely also check out this post from Erin Conrad on My Journey Into PD . 

Photo of Ashley Haskins
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Is your idea to offer PD to teachers to improve Lead Teachers as you have described?

Photo of David Casey
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Ashley,
Thanks for your clarification question. No, I think my comment is not describing my idea, which is: the lead teachers are providing the PD to the classroom teachers on a daily basis. The lead teachers have already received an extensive dosage of PD. Now they are passing it on in their daily discourse with their colleagues, informing them of techniques and protocols, methods and other opportunities for growth.
Thanks,
David

Photo of Emma Scripps
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David Casey Probably one of the more frightening photos I've seen. But also perfectly captures the sentiment - step aside, admin. Time to give lead teachers 20% to work closely with teachers. Love love love it. So - what might you make (a proposal, biz case, etc) to help convince admin that this is the right idea for your school? 

Photo of David Casey
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Mr. Principal,
I am impressed with your ability to manage teachers, programs, schedules, funding sources, state mandates, parents and other community members. The last thing you have time for might also be the most important job of all: teacher support and development. I realize that the best teacher for you might be one who never receives a parent or students complaint, who never writes a referral, and who occasionally is recognized by the local newspaper or foundation. But even if every single one of your staff possessed those characteristics, he or she might not be delivering the best curriculum for their students. Are your teachers actively engaging students with real world challenges that encourage their leadership, collaboration and intellectual growth? Are your teachers presenting units and modules that support your school's expected student learning results, the district's mission statement, and state and federal standards and practices? While the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality might satisfy some principals, I know that you want more for all of your students. You can't do it all. Let those staff members who are the experts at curriculum development, teacher support and collaboration help you make your job just a tiny bit easier, so you can be part of a school that has the profound, powerful effect on the community that can help change our world. Please support a 20% release period for your best teachers to help all of your teachers be their best!

Photo of Margaret Powers
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Hi David,
I am excited to see you continue to build out this idea. What type of background and training would a teacher need to be part of this program? How might those teacher leaders build a partnership with both principals and other teachers? 

Photo of David Casey
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Margaret,
Thanks for your comments and questions.
I think that these teacher leaders would need training in transactional coaching; ideally, they have been a BTSA mentor; they have demonstrated local leadership as a department chair or staff development presenter; they have at least 10 years of teaching experience; and perhaps, most importantly, they are elected by the teaching staff.