Teacher Leadership for Whole Child Education: A Global Perspective
In early February of 2020, a blog, written by Barnett Berry, discussed the long-standing need for practitioners to lead the transformation of teaching and learning. He wrote “the problem (was) not the supply of teachers who want to lead without leaving the classroom; it (was) the demand for them.” It was time for teachers to make more known — to policymakers, administrators, and to each other — how they were leading. Advancing teacher leadership seemed to be one step forward – and at least ¾ of a step backward.
Two years later, and in the midst of continuing pandemic-induced havoc in our education system, something seems to have changed. While last several years of public school teaching has been nothing but “grueling,” we see a shift in the leadership role of teachers.
This is why we (Barnett Berry and Tony Mackay) joined together with Linda Darling-Hammond in penning a paper to inform the deliberations of the 2021-22 International Summit on the Teaching Profession: Teacher Leadership for Whole Child Education: A Global Perspective. Here are three major headlines:
- With the “grammar” of schooling disrupted, teachers around the world used technology as they turned to each other as sources of ideas and inspirations and discovered and used innovations to serve children and families;
- Ministers of education as well as influential think tanks called for whole child/community schooling as a key strategy to address the educational inequities exposed and deepened by the shift to emergency teaching and learning (see Brookings Institute report);
- International data revealed how teachers were finding new ways to collaborate and increasingly saw themselves as “game-changers” who are open to new forms of schooling.
Our paper pointed out how the pandemic has not just been about academic learning loss, but how teacher leaders have led an asset-based approach to teaching and learning grounded in a holistic vision of child, family, and community development that supports thriving. Top performing education systems across the globe have taught us much about how the reallocation of people and programs prioritize opportunities for teachers’ collaborative professional learning and decision making as a critical — perhaps the critical — lever for improving teaching innovation and effectiveness.
It is now time to “leapfrog” archaic institutional arrangements and capitalize on the power of informal learning and non-positional leading by teachers while also drawing on formal systems of recognizing and using their expertise. We have the technical know-how to reimagine the education professions where teaching expertise is distributed, time is created in the day for leadership from the classroom, and teachers and administrators lead together in service of student-led learning and whole child education.
It is the mind-shift that is now just shifting. How do we take advantage of the dastardly disturbances in the lock-step routines of schooling that no longer seem intractable? As education gets turned upside-down, how can the hierarchical system of school leadership be turned on its side? This is the focus of our conversation March 7, 2022 .
Public schools everywhere are facing a future of rapid change, intensifying complexity, and growing uncertainty. Now more than ever, it is time for teachers to lead the transformation of their profession and our schools — and for government and union leaders to assist them in doing so The young people of the world deserve no less.
Postscript: Please take a look at how the ministers of education and union leaders responded to a draft of our paper at their October 2021 convening.