Teacher Leadership and Collegial Relationships

Teacher Leadership and Collegial Relationships

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5649-8.ch005
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Abstract

The authors assert that P-12 classroom teachers are and should be leaders in the teaching and learning of children. The strongest teacher leadership is shaped by co-constructed knowledge and collaborative practices. The change that is required to help classroom teachers be better advocates for antiracist education can come from the leadership of teachers themselves, with the support of administrators and professional development designers. The authors examined teacher reflections on a variety of teacher leadership experiences and efforts to engage in equity-based initiatives at the school or district level to create antiracist policies and practices. The examination included an anonymous survey of school- or district-based equity initiatives, and how the goals are defined, what teachers perceive to be the impact (on students, teacher colleagues, their school, their district), and whether and how teachers are taking leadership in the initiatives.
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Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced. --James Baldwin

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. --Bishop Desmond Tutu

You cannot, you cannot use someone else's fire. You can only use your own. And in order to do that, you must first be willing to believe that you have it. -- Audre Lorde

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Introduction

An article of faith that has governed our work doing teacher professional development is that K-12 classroom teachers are and should be leaders in the teaching and learning of children. The change that is required to help classroom teachers be better advocates for antiracist education can come from the leadership of teachers themselves, with the support of administrators and professional development designers. Too often, education policy and the professional development that in-service teachers receive in schools is driven by people who are not educators, and who are not expressly antiracist. In the history of public education in the U.S., teachers have not been treated as professionals in the same way as other professionals, so that their leadership is muted, if not actively denied as has happened with teacher strikes, especially since 2012. We support antiracist professional development that amplifies the voices and leadership of teachers because teachers have the greatest opportunity to build relationships with children and families and to connect children with liberatory academic content.

Over time, we have come to recognize that teacher leadership is shaped by the degree to which teachers innately possess and/or come to develop critical consciousness. In addition, there is a spectrum of approaches to their own leadership and their exercising of critical consciousness that goes from “small p” policy change to “big p” policy change. In this chapter, we describe some of the ideas and experiences that can shape leadership development among K-12 practicing teachers.

Teachers as Professionals

The history of teaching as a profession has been contested since the formation of public education in the U.S. Educational historians declared that all professions shared the characteristics of having a discrete body of knowledge that stems from the university, a moral commitment to service, autonomy (Hatch, 1988), and specialized expertise, which is the centerpiece of professional authority (Bledstein, 1978). Medical doctors, engineers, lawyers are professionals and are granted social and economic authority because they are presumed to know something that their clients do not (Larson, 1979; Abbott, 1988). Teachers, on the other hand, are perceived as “semi-professional” – part of neither a full-fledged profession nor a trade (D’Amico, 2015; Etzioni, 1969; Lortie, 1975; & Ingersoll & Perda, 2008). Everyone presumes to know what teachers do or should do, and teacher work is highly regulated and managed, depriving them of the authority and autonomy that other professions claim (e.g. Porter, 1989). According to policymakers and school leaders, the purpose of teacher professionalization is to improve the nation’s public schools (D’Amico Pawlewicz, 2020) without necessarily increasing teacher power and leadership. Even among families and communities of color that historically understood the professional teacher as an agent of change and a force of liberation and disruption, the professional teacher labored on behalf of the community’s evolving definitions of antiracist policies, rather than as an autonomous leader (D’Amico Pawlewicz & View, 2020).

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