Theme of the month

Theme of the Month

Join us each month as we focus on a topic of interest to STEM Teacher Leaders with a webinar panel, open
discussion, resources and blog post. 

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Theme of the Month Discussion: Leading Without Leaving the Classroom

In this facilitated discussion starting December 5th, we will discuss the challenges and opportunities that exist for teachers who want to stay in the classroom to work directly with students but also want to continue developing professionally as a STEM teacher leader. If you were unable to attend the online Expert Panel, you can view it here:


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As we mentioned during the Expert Panel, we will post questions received during this discussion that couldn’t be addressed in the time allotted for the Panel to this forum. And, we greatly look forward to your posting to this Discussion Forum and invite comments and reflections from the entire community.

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 3:22 PM Permalink
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In reply to by Jay Labov

As described in my original posting above, I will be posting these questions throughout the period that this discussion forum is open. Here's the first one, posed by Jackie Wheeler: "I am really interested in finding out more about supporting STEM resource teachers to serve as leaders within their school to strength STEM education within. What suggestions do you all have?"

Please respond to this posting with your suggestions. Thank you!

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 8:36 PM Permalink


As I mentioned in our discussion, I was recently educated on a program called Opportunity Culture. I know it started in Vance County in North Carolina and it is also happening in Guilford County Schools in NC. It intrigued me because it was an opportunity for teachers to be multi-classroom leaders within their schools. They work in several classrooms and collaborate with other classroom teachers to develop instruction that works. I think this is an excellent way to lead without leaving the classroom. 

Sat, 12/07/2019 - 1:38 PM Permalink

Here is a comment posted by Beth Heidemann to the chat during the Expert Panel on December 5:I think it is important to push back on the busy work that gets shifted onto teachers that impede their ability to actually engage in meaningful leadership tasks.  I had to learn when to bring my A game and when I could dial it back.  If a task required of me (data reporting on measures that lack merit, for example) was not going to improve student learning or elevate the profession, I tried to dial back the time I spent on it.

I think this is an important introduction to the problem of limited time and too many things to do that besets all teachers. Please share your strategies for finding time to do the important things related to teacher leadership and how you set priorities. Have those strategies changed as you progressed through your career?

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 3:30 PM Permalink

Much of the busy work is usually something the administrators need for reports passed down to them by higher up, accreditation, the state, etc. albeit sometimes not approached correctly or scientifically.  I do not hesitate to discuss the “design flaws” or if there is a discrepancy of who actually does the work and who doesn’t. Is everyone held accountable? When “handing in” these assignments, I do ask very specific questions about my submissions a time later to see if it was actually read?  I have actually asked an administrator if they read it when there was no answer.  I think engaging in these types of professional discussions is a form of leadership.  I don’t believe that most of these activities are initially engaged in just to keep us busy and if we have ideas that can make it worthwhile and useable, we should talk to them.  It is also important to know the Why?  What is the reasoning for doing this activity? This also shows that one is paying attention and really thinking about the business of education.  The administrators may think more the next time.  

A true story: All of the teachers had been assigned to give students a reading and five questions each quarter.  The readings and results were to be turned in.  Lots of flaws in the design which I discussed with the admin.  We still had to do it so I found the oddest readings e.g. fecal transplants, and turned the data in.  My administrator called me in to discuss the reading.  He had read it and we had a great discussion on the policy.  It was dropped the next year.  

I did what was expected and later in my career, started to more openly discuss these same types of “activities”.  When I became more involved in other leadership activities, my administrator acknowledged that I had always helped them so I was allowed to go to activities and events where I could further build my leadership skills such as standards writing or to present on the NGSS in Dubai.  

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 10:25 PM Permalink

I have been guilty of just getting busy work done because I was asked to do it. No questions. Grumbling perhaps, but no questions. As I was developing a teacher leader I listened to my fellow teachers and asked questions for clarification. It was only after those discussions that I would approach administration and did the same. Not to challenge the work, but to truly understand the value and outcome. Sometimes our admins, as Julie mentioned, are given these tasks and they do pass them along. However, they don't have all perspectives, so providing them with our perspective and intelligent questions helps their decisions as well. 

Fri, 12/13/2019 - 8:36 AM Permalink

Great paper that all teacher leaders should read. Based on this paper, it feels like we have a revolution coming where teachers are being provided with the tools to take back our schools and run them the way we know is best for our students.

In this article, Barnett says " Further, in studies of teachers who used formative assessment to boost student learning, he found that teachers improve their teaching most when they serve as resources for one another and develop a sense of ownership of their professional development. In other words, the most powerful professional learning tends to be shared among colleagues, not “vested in one person who is high up in the hierarchy” (York-Barr & Duke, 2004)." 

Our best resources are in each other. We might get "stuff" when we write grants and all that is good and encouraging, but until we begin to value and use our best resources, each other, will we begin to see the change in our instruction, our classrooms and ultimately the education we know our students deserve. The collaboration doesn't have to happen within our schools all the time, but we have many programs available in our districts and online that allow us to share ideas with educators around the world. How exciting!

Sat, 12/07/2019 - 2:21 PM Permalink
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In reply to by Jay Labov

This question was submitted by Dr. Bruce Alberts, former President of the National Academy of Sciences (addressing the panelists):: "besides individual teachers like you having influence on specific issues, how do we get school districts -- say both school boards and superintendents  -- to regularly seek feedback/ideas for improvements from a GROUP of their outstanding teachers?"

Sun, 12/08/2019 - 7:25 PM Permalink

Bruce Alberts poses what is for me a decisive question.  It's probably very hard for districts to adopt an inquiry stance towards the practices (pedagogical and administrative) current in the district, and probe ways to improve, in the context of the flood of mandates that schools must deal with.  So I am looking at the other posts in the discussion with the question, "What happened to make room for the innovative practice you are telling us about?"   Stories behind the stories. 

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 12:08 PM Permalink
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To get the conversation started, I'd like to hear about what you are doing that’s a little edgy, a little risky, that might put you in a non-traditional leadership role? How did you find this opportunity? What kinds of “risks” did you have to take? What benefits have you received from taking such risks?

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 1:11 AM Permalink
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In reply to by William O'Brien

I think you are right in that it starts with being willing to get out of your comfort zone and try something new....  a couple of summers ago I went to an ECET2 Maine gathering.  It was the first time I was exposed to a framework and diagnostic tools for understanding professional culture.  I came back to my school and shared these resources with my trusted circle of like minds.  Over the next year this grew in a grassroots way of being important work for us to take-on as a full staff.  We tried a tool.  For many it was a way to get a sense of where our current culture was and that was revealing.  For others it was frustrating because it was time that could have been used in another way..  The end result, though, is the idea of having to tend to professional culture stuck and has grown.  Administration has embraced it.  We now have a k-12 Culture Keepers group.  We have been able to consult with some very talented professionals that have helped build skills around having hard conversations and how to nurture authentic relationship building among staff.   This has been very positive and ultimately has a positive impact on student learning. I feel like my role as a teacher leader in this example was simply to start a conversation based on a need I observed.

Sat, 12/07/2019 - 12:25 PM Permalink
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In reply to by William O'Brien

Six years ago, I was offered the opportunity to go from a traditional classroom of college prep students to having total oversight to design and carry out a self paced, customized science program for our alternative school.  I had worked with many of our at risk students in the regular classroom and the director asked me if I was interested.  The risks: working with a larger group of at risk students, not having everyone in the same place at the same time, dealing with a lot more than just school curriculum.  The benefits: I get to try things not possible in a regular class - smaller groups.  I don't need as much of everything when there are only a few students doing an activity at a time.  I get total latitude to try what I want.  I really get to know the students.  Working with a smaller staff is better too - we can problem solve together across the curriculum.

Mon, 12/09/2019 - 2:22 PM Permalink
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In reply to by William O'Brien

I was terrified at first - I had to trust in my training and instincts.  It was a lot of work but I have a program that I am very proud of - most of our alt. school students take extra science courses! I also had a good assistant principal that totally backs us up when there is a problem with a student.  He also doesn't micro-manage.  I have a very well equipped room thanks to also taking the chance at writing grants like Jose talked about.  When I took the alternative school job, I gave up teaching a dual credit Biology course.  Three years later, they asked me to take it back.  I did so on my conditions: those students came to my room, I didn't give up the alt. school job, and class size was limited to 24.  Yes - two very different class types and students.  I get to try even more things!  Kind of like my own "education lab."  I also get to connect with different teachers/curricular areas - culinary, building trades, the arts, social studies, English.  As Jose also discussed - the need to connect with other teachers, share, and join forces so to speak.  

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 9:18 AM Permalink
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In reply to by William O'Brien

My school recently developed a 'Makerspace' room, which is a resource that encourages engineering-based approaches to problem-solving and critical thinking.  It is a relatively new idea I think, and it is brand new in our district.  (We are also a very small, rural school, so that may affect my perception of how new this concept is.)  I worked with the art department and the computer science department to design a project for my physical science students.  As the first teacher to bring a full class into this room and use this resource, I am trying to serve as a leader to encourage other subjects to bring engineering into their classroom.

I am the only biology teacher at my school, so any leadership-type roles that I could fill would require leading teachers from outside of my 'department'.  I am also only a fourth-year teacher, and my lack of experience makes taking on leadership roles difficult.  Whether it's because more experienced teachers don't like taking advice from new teachers, or because I simply don't have the confidence in my own skills to feel like I have earned that leadership, I cannot say.  Probably a little of both.  

However, getting out of my classroom, working with other teachers, and trying something that other teachers in my district haven't done yet was very rewarding for me professionally, but also for my students.  The novelty of the project made students automatically more engaged and excited.  The other teachers were excited that I asked for their help and opinions.  And my principal was excited that I was taking advantage of the new resources that our district worked so hard to provide.  

Mon, 12/09/2019 - 2:52 PM Permalink

Maggie, thank you for sharing. Jumping into a new, untested resource (the Makerspace room) and collaborating with art and computer science in your fourth year of teaching absolutely qualifies as risk taking... and leadership.

There are so many interesting paths that we take to become leaders in our schools; leading by getting your students more engaged and excited is a path I can vouch for. Almost all teachers want our students to become more engaged, and we can't help but be interested when we see colleagues doing something that lights that spark. As others ask you what you are doing and how you are doing it and you share, you are leading and marching down the leadership path. Kudos!

Mon, 12/09/2019 - 7:45 PM Permalink

Hi Maggie

I too am trying to build a maker space/creativity zone.  My justification is like yours - to have more engineering and to also have materials available to those students that would otherwise not be able to afford them.  An idea for you would be to lead a session during in-service training at the start of the school year - divide teachers into teams.  To borrow a project that I did with my Biology class (Assistive Art Device -

I did change the rubrics and was more specific on the requirements but it would be easy to incorporate something from the other disciplines: present, aesthetics (art), write a jingle or create an ad, write the directions, patent search (history/govt)...

Once the other teachers see what is in the space, they will be more receptive of other ideas.  They also will see that engineering something requires all disciplines to work together.  Maybe having a meeting to brainstorm ideas and how everyone could help each other?

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 9:44 AM Permalink

I recommend creating a visual resource - pictures and links of what is possible.  Instagram and Twitter #stemeducation and similar tags will bring up a lot of options.  I work with many schools helping them incorporate STEM/STEAM/Maker space activities into the school day.  I find that showing teachers images of what other schools and other teachers do helps remove the resistance.  You can also search by product type - micro:bits for example or activity type such as paper engineering or cardboard engineering.  These can be organized into a powerpoint style presentation that could be shared across the school and/or accessed from a computer in the maker space.  

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 2:14 PM Permalink
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Jose Rivas stated that he feels at times like he has credibility outside of his school, but not always inside of it. This is a phenomenon my colleagues and I have noted in the work we do around teacher leadership. We had a Noyce Master Teaching Fellow who was highly recognized within the AP Physics community and yet was not seen as a teacher leader in her own school; she in fact moved schools partly as a function of this situation.

My colleagues and I have some hypotheses about how this situation arises. We have seen it less in schools where distributed leadership is embedded in how the school operates. We have seen it more in schools where the teachers tightly cling to the notion of a local egalitarian structure associated with each teacher's status. It would be great to hear whether others have experienced this, and, if so what the context was. Are there factors that you can identify that contribute to this? There would be much value in identifying patterns in when and how this happens.

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 11:29 AM Permalink
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In reply to by Brett Criswell

I would say at my school it is both.  Our school distributes leadership, and admin promotes the idea of taking the lead on projects and programs to push the school forward and improve student outcomes. But the school environment also has embedded this egalitarian idea.  When a teacher receives an award or is involved in programs that will benefit all, very little mention is made or recognition given.  At least in my school many are in their own silo, and for many they see no benefit in what others are doing or attempting to share.   For instance a different content area teacher sees no benefit in the strategies I use because I teach science.  That is the big reason why I am getting  teachers involved with projects  and nominating them for awards in an attempt to breakdown these walls.  I am also, working at building capacity in groups of teachers that are interesting in growing.

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 3:27 PM Permalink

I'd like to comment on what you said, "For instance a different content area teacher sees no benefit in the strategies I use because I teach science." We know that it's all about best practices in all content areas. I found that when I conduct PD for teachers, I connect reading strategies that can be used in math and science. In elementary school, we often see just reading and math PD, but I make an effort to always find STEM lessons that tie in all content areas. I agree that's it all about breaking down the walls to collaborate and communicate. 

Sat, 12/07/2019 - 1:56 PM Permalink
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In reply to by Brett Criswell

Brett, I have to say that I think a large part of it is the disciplinary isolation we see in a lot of schools. I had the same experience as a high school physics teacher in my first school where I was the only physics teacher. Because my leadership stemmed so strongly from my teaching of physics (i.e., I felt really confident not so much in general instructional strategies, but in teaching particular topics and making them relevant to students' lives), I think it was difficult for other teachers to see how my leadership could benefit them. Hence, I'm guessing that this leadership isolation is common at schools that not only don't have distributed leadership, but also that might not value integration in general. 

STEM in general often has a lot to come up against, not just in terms of students' feelings toward it, but in our colleagues' and our administrators' views of it. If I recall correctly, the majority of school administrators do not come from STEM fields.

The fact that a STEM teacher leader identifies as a STEM-person might be perceived by others as a barrier to permitting them to lead, in general.

Sat, 12/07/2019 - 10:36 AM Permalink

Rebecca I agree completely with all your observations and it is something that I still continue to experience in my school.  There was a 7 year span in my career where I focused on distributing leadership at my school through my work with Loyola Marymount Universities Center for Math and Science teaching.  I think in my case it fell apart  because admin was unwilling to back me up and the work that I was trying to do with the university to improve teacher capacity and leadership.  

Sat, 12/07/2019 - 8:15 PM Permalink

Thank you Rebecca, for expressing so beautifully significant mediators of teacher collaboration.

Also, I have pondered why it seems relatively uncommon for professional educators (us), of domains whose nature is oriented toward discovery, inquiry and problem-solving, to regularly practice the same? Is it because we are called "teachers" that we believe this is the sum or our duty and joy? (Here I am reminded of "Learning is not necessarily an outcome of teaching." from SFAA, Chapter 13.) What then are teacher leaders?

Allow me to propose a disciplinary-driven view of teacher leadership. Imagine for a moment a research laboratory at a local university or industry. The PI or lab manager is a leader of the progress and discovery that unfolds there. Now imagine our classroom/labs/communities as OUR laboratories for advancing learning for our students, our schools, and our profession?  Models exist (Takahashi & McDougal, 2016). This school was established with this premise (I'm no longer there, so things may be different now). This idea is not new. It corresponds with Boyer's famous work on scholarship, Shulman's studies of professionalism and signature pedagogies, and by extension the Carnegie Foundation's current work on improvement science. More can be said, but I trust this gets to the idea.

Having served periodically on both sides of the equation, as agent and as subject of reform programs, I certainly have developed ideas about why this is so. You point to some important ones: structural isolation, agency limits, and administrative disassociation.

Anyway, reflecting on the webinar and online discussion, I will risk offering a few items for discussion. These are numbered for nominal reference only, no ordinal hierarchy is intended.

  1. Commit to proceed as a community of scholars (practice what we preach: adopt progressive self-correcting practices, beware of logical fallacies, test information for credibility, etc.).
  2. Avoid confusing teacher efficacy with leadership.
  3. Work toward meaningful and sustained (cultural) outcomes, and by corollary, recognize that leadership, viable collaboration (and PLCs) are means, not outcomes.
  4. Remain open-minded. Recognize that isolation limits perspective inviting a kind of epistemological narcissism.
  5. Identify and describe trustworthy research and site exemplars (exemplary models), as a place to start.

We could each add more!  In general, my plea is to proceed in an intentional way, respectful of disciplinary inquiry.

With Gratitude,



Takahashi, A., & McDougal, T. (2016). Collaborative lesson research: Maximizing the impact of lesson study. ZDM, 48(4), 513–526.

Sun, 12/08/2019 - 11:41 AM Permalink
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In reply to by Brett Criswell

As Huizenga and Sczcesiul have found, teacher leadership is a “socially distributed phenomena” that develops over time as teachers gain efficacy; to do so, they must have “repeated opportunities” to reflect on what they master in the context of structured collaboration. Whether in the form of well-designed lesson study or similar practices, this type of professional development helps teachers get more comfortable with “feelings of failure” and “cop[ing] with difficult situations.”[i]To provide these learning opportunities, political and system leaders, like those in British Columbia, may need to rethink the purpose and focus of their teaching policies. 

Rod Allen, former Superintendent of Learning for SD79 (Cowichan Valley) in British Columbia, reports that his districthas placed a moratorium on formal teacher evaluation. “It was not helping teachers improve,” Allen noted, “and it was like a dark cloud hanging over their heads—keeping them from taking learning risks in their classrooms.” Teachers now routinely invite their colleagues as well as administrators into their classrooms to see new strategies. “It was the de-privatization of practice over time—not the private evaluations of individual teachers—that got us the gains in student learning,” Allen said.[ii]

I am certain that de-isolating teachers is the key to breaking up egalitarian culture. And administrators have a key role in doing so.

[i]Szczesiul, S. A., & Huizenga, J. L. (2015). Bridging structure and agency: Exploring the riddle of teacher leadership in teacher collaboration. Journal of School Leadership, 25(2), 404.

[ii]Allen, R. (2016). Personal communication. August 22.

Sat, 12/07/2019 - 2:32 PM Permalink
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In reply to by Brett Criswell

Other factors that may contribute to the issue of credibility in/out of the school - 

When do teachers take their lunch break? Is it just the STEM teachers then the English teachers, etc.  There are no conversations happening. We don't really get to talk and find out what others are doing in/out of the school.  

Does the school have multiple buildings?  I am with the CTE course teachers (auto, building trades, biomedical, welding) and we have had many successful collaborations and know what each other's skills/leadership abilities are because we all take the same lunch period.

What is the definition of leadership by the administration?  There are committees but do they truly listen and use what the teachers say or are they just the messengers to the rest of the staff?

Do they nominate/recognize the teacher leaders? or are they afraid to show "favoritism"?  That seems to be a problem.  As Jose said, recognizing others by nominations is a good start.  We have to support each other.  Send emails, contact the paper, etc.

Mon, 12/09/2019 - 2:33 PM Permalink
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In reply to by Julie Olson

Julie, you make a point that bears more discussion — where do teachers get to talk about practice, and is such talk a "normal" feature of school life?  I have sat in a fair number of school science department meetings which occupied the only "official"  space for teacher conversation — but the agenda was almost never about practice.  Standards, departmental purchases, the needs of specific kids, etc. etc.  All of this is valuable stuff!!  But it doesn't go very far in exploring areas in which leadership within the school could make a difference — and in giving teachers a chance to see when they could be "the answer" at least at that scale. 

     I would love to hear stories about ways that science (or math or... ) teachers were able to find more time for "real" shop talk. 


Tue, 12/10/2019 - 12:33 PM Permalink
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In reply to by Julie Olson

Hearing these experiences my middle school and high school counterparts have is disheartening. I suppose I knew that there were departments in the upper grades, but never really connected the fact that conversations are limited. Our PLC structure provides conversations within grade levels and we do separate the topics to allow each content area equal time for discussion, but as a coach, I do facilitate vertical discussions to make curricular connections across grade level. We had a PD that involved each grade level to look at their science curriculum and take note of how each grade level supports the grade levels above it. We were able to then have discussions about how to support the learning for our students and we were able to share thoughts and ideas. I have also been able to take teachers from different grade levels to our local NSTA, NCTM and technology conferences. We are able to have dialogue during and after the sessions we attend together. Another opportunity being offered in our county is each curriculum and instruction department hosts PD that brings representatives from different schools together to work on a science standard, math pedagogy or data discussions centered around standards. It really is the administration taking notice or listening to what our teachers are asking for in surveys and conversations. 

Fri, 12/13/2019 - 8:21 AM Permalink
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I agree with the comments shared but there is another piece that I have noticed, too. I have seen lots of teachers receive lots of different awards.  There are some teachers that are able to take great delight and sharing that delight with others.  They celebrate themselves.  It is hard to not want to be a part of that.  So you celebrate them.  Then there are teachers that are not quite sure what to do with the honor.  I have felt this way.  Am I worthy of it?  Am I going to be perceived as self-serving?  Keeping it quiet.  Not tooting your own horn.  I think the "system" responds to not make a big deal.  I can also think of examples of teachers that do really well for their students but aren't effective colleagues.  That is where it gets a little challenging to celebrate them when they have not built any social capital among their colleagues.  Certainly not a healthy response but schools are a social enterprise . Building and district leaders not celebrating teachers that receive great honors and awards I have come to believe it is a lack of understanding.  It is clear that schools benefit from having award recipients.  It elevates their status and with proper nurturing can become real assets as teacher leaders.  The bottom line I don't think there is one reason why this response happens.  So probably needs a multi-prong approach to change this..

I am curious about your hypothesis of distributed leadership.  It is model I have been intrigued by and have kept an eye on what is happening in teacher-powered schools.  There is definitely a systemic issue of teachers only being valued when they are in the classroom and if they grow too much beyond the skills needed for the classroom that means they want to leave the classroom....  I think part of this systemic issue may really be in the hierarchal organizational structures of schools.   

Sat, 12/07/2019 - 12:07 PM Permalink
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Steven brings up an interesting point about the difference between teacher efficacy and leadership.  The teacher leadership programs I have gone through and now lead, starts with the idea of building teacher efficacy in the classroom as a springboard for developing teacher leaders, by training teachers to become the exemplars of instruction through the implementation of researched based strategies.  As my program director would say, " We want our teachers to walk the walk and talk the talk". 

Mon, 12/09/2019 - 5:08 PM Permalink
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In reply to by Jose Rivas


    I have to say that as I read many of the comments in this thread, including this one by you, I find myself wanting one more level of concrete detail, to understand what people are reporting or advocating.  If I am implementing some research-based strategy that I think is working pretty well — how do the other teachers in my school get to hear about it?  One of the threads in this discussion has explored "disciplinary isolation," and that's an actual problem — but pedagogical silence seems to me often to play an important role. The reasons for it are easy enough to understand and emphathize with  — so a kind of leadership that might be needed is one of vulnerability — "I can't claim to have all the answers, but here's a thing I've been trying, and this is what's happening... " Ice-breaking skill, or what an old mentor once called "the courage to be wrong."  Or so I think. 

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 3:16 PM Permalink

In my experience you need a balance between vulnerability and confidence in your craft.  The leadership program I went through at Loyola Marymount looked at both sides of the coin.  On one side was the coaching and mentoring element where we learned different methods to engage and support teachers at all levels to shift their instruction positively to improve student success.  This also required modelling what a classroom would look like, feel like and sound like.  It also required having tough conversations with teachers that did not want to shift.  In this model there was a sustained and continuous interaction between the teacher leader and colleagues to support their growth.  To do this you have to be an exemplar in instruction.  However, this should not negate the vulnerability of a teacher leader or the fact that everything we do does not work at times.  These conversations are especially important when doing PDs or in one on one conversations to help teachers shift their practice or in developing reciprocal coaching which has been very valuable in my department to grow a common vision.  The other side of the coin is when teacher leaders are challenged or attacked for their teaching methods even when student outcomes and data demonstrates a tremendous growth in students.  A teacher leader must be able to defend their practice using current research, and demonstrate the effectiveness of these strategies in the classroom.  The courage to be wrong is tremendously important, and has helped me grow because I am constantly reflecting on my practice and working at improving it.  I feel that it is also important to have courage when you are right and step out of ones comfort zone to walk the walk and talk the talk.

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 1:00 PM Permalink

Vulnerability and confidence. That's exactly right. We should also recognize that most leaders have a growth mindset. We tend to always look for ways to improve and are willing to ask questions. When we have new teachers or lateral-entry teachers one thing that we leaders need to do is encourage questions but we also need to not discourage questions. What I mean is don't groan or belittle any question that comes from a new teacher. Sometimes I hear our veteran teachers say things like "oh, you're so young" or "just wait, you're new to all of this."  That's a cop out in my opinion and a missed opportunity to teach a new colleague how to collaborate and seek help or more importantly how to find their community. 

Fri, 12/13/2019 - 8:28 AM Permalink
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During the December 5 panel discussion, the idea of a vision was mentioned several times.  Why is it important that STEM Leaders have a vision? What are key components to consider in developing a vision as a teacher leader? Thank you.

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 6:04 AM Permalink
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In reply to by Kenneth Huff

My vision began with the goals I had for my students and the experiences I wanted to create for them to inspire them to pursue careers in physics and engineering.  From there my circle grew to include how to improve the school and the academic outcomes of all students by engaging with my colleagues and inspiring them to be the best teachers they can be.  My circles kept on getting bigger eventually reaching the state, national and international levels.  In whatever role I took my north star and vision always connected back to what is best for students to inspire and engage them.  Without a vision you cannot have the 'why' of what you are trying to accomplish.  How does one develop a vision as a teacher leader?  It starts with passion for the that one cause that most inspires you.  For me it was creating access for my students in the STEM fields, were minorities and especially women minorities are under represented.  That was my call to action and is the foundation for everything I have done in my career.

Tue, 12/17/2019 - 2:19 PM Permalink
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Isolation, Is STEM specific Leadership important?, PLC's have all been topics discussed here. I see these as interrelated issues and topics. They are all part of  our landscape and stay there because we are trying to meet the demands of the evolving education system.  So many initiatives come from a place of good intent but often are not implemented in a way that help address the fundamental issue or help the system shift and instead become extra work that can feel like spinning wheels.  

I can think of many schools that have implemented PLC's to help teachers get out of their silos. On the surface this seems a noble effort but there are reasons schools became siloed.   Teacher time is really only valued for the time they are with students.  When budgets and schedules are made this is where this becomes most obvious.  For teachers, managing what happens in their classrooms (instruction, feedback, material design and implementation, assessment) all take a huge amount of time.  The biggest expense in schools is teacher salary and teacher salaries are paid for with local taxes paying the biggest share.  (side note: The inequity of this system should have been addressed as a nation long ago.) To change that will take rethinking so many aspects of how schools operate.  Which is why this discussion is highlighting so many parts of how we have systems issues that really need to have systems approaches to solutions.  I am sure there are models that exist that could work in the wide and varied contexts of our schools.  If not in this country, certainly abroad.  It is a huge challenge for schools to evolve.  Especially when we have to figure this out state by state and in local control states like mine (Maine) this has to get figured out town by town.  It is not efficient and there is not the capacity.

I recall a convocation several years ago on STEM teacher leadership that the Teacher Advisory Council for the National Academies put on.  Barnett Berry gave a powerful presentation that has stuck with me.  One particular point was in reference to a conversation with Ee Ling Low, National Institute of Education, Singapore discussing what allowed them to be so successful.  Their comment was that they had access to teacher quality research from the USA.  "The USA just does not execute its own ideas very well". Why is this?  

Bruce Alberts keeps asking the big systemic questions.  Ken Huff asked what is the vision (for STEM teacher leadership)?... a broad, driving question.  Perhaps a major reason we need STEM teacher leaders rather than general teacher leaders is to help all aspects of the system connect research to practice, highlight models that are working and help focus on systemic change?


Sun, 12/15/2019 - 9:28 AM Permalink

School districts can rethink school schedules to create time for teachers to both teach and engage in collaborative efforts to improve instruction. But most do not as you find in top performing nations like Singapore (thx for reminding us, Margo!)....where teachers can spend just as much time 15-17 hours a week of collaborative work outside of the classroom as they spend teaching in their own!  Even the Opportunity Culture is just for a few teachers in a building - and often times it means other teachers have larger class sizes. We are still thinking inside the box...the one teacher-one classroom mode of organizational time and space as opposed to what you find in Singapore as well as in other professions in America. For example, teaching for 21st-century learning is too compli­cated for one teacher to do it all — and the work of schooling demands a larger array of experts, specialists, and generalists working as a team. The United States has 7 million medical professionals, but only 700,000 physicians — who practice in 130 different specialties. These doc­tors are supported by many talented and well prepared professionals such as nurses, physical therapists, and biomedical engineers as well as a wide range of other skilled people an and apprentices who play important supportive roles.

In the future we imagine the same for education where 3 million teachers collaborate with a wide variety of experts and other professionals from outside of PK-12 education agencies who support young people. New technologies and artificial Intelligenceincreasingly is prevalent in every aspect of life, which includes training and workforce development as well as education.  And as schools worldwide become interconnected, virtual and augmented reality tools will allow students to experience learning in different contexts in ways they could not previously. 

And many of the same e-tools for students are beginning to infiltrate the world of teachers’ professional development — with serious implications for de-siloing classrooms and offering innovative ways for staffing classrooms and collaboration inside and out of the teaching profession. 

With new school designs teachers of various stripes will need much more room to move in and out of different roles, take on more or less responsibility, focus on more or fewer students, and serve in and out of cyberspace, as well as in and out of their school buildings. Ten 

Are administrators ready for this? Policymakers? Teachers themselves? 

I believe STEM teacher leaders can play a major role in this work as the future of work in key fields  - think advanced manufacturing and health sciences - are moving to more variegated work structures and differentiated roles of many different professionals with different prep and skills...

I am working on a paper that i hope to share with this important community of teacher leaders!!


Thu, 12/19/2019 - 11:46 PM Permalink
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