Teachers as Leaders: Building Collaborative Culture
My school offers the rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum to all students in grades 6-12, not just a select few. Our initial difficulties with implementing IB forced us to look inward and see what we could change about our teaching practice rather than bemoaning what students needed to change about themselves. From writing the application to become an IB World School to supporting new hires in learning our systems of planning, pedagogy, and assessment, my successes and mistakes have taught me a lot about how we can make IB accessible and engaging.
We have worked hard to build a collaborative community that includes and values the experiences and feedback from all staff in order to enhance student learning. Over the years, my fellow instructional leaders, administrators, and teacher-leaders have collaborated to design professional development about practices and strategies to create inquiry-based learning experiences or performances of understanding, co-think around problems of practice or to support students, and have space for effective adult learning, reflection, and peer feedback. Our insights have yielded four practices for implementing teacher-driven, teacher-led PD: 1) soliciting staff input and involvement, 2) dedicating time to common planning, 3) creating a teacher-leader support structure, and 4) developing a culture of co-thinking with common shared language.
The culture of co-thinking has yielded the most gains in terms of teacher-leaders and staff feeling valued as professionals, learning from each other using structured conversations, and applying their learning to their inquiry-based teaching practice. Changing the way we taught and assessed from grades 6-12 has continued toi yield more students earning IB diplomas, getting admitted to more selective colleges and universities, and gaining critical thinking, writing, and speaking skills.