ACTE Techniques April 2012 : Page 14

Q & A An Interview With Ann Lieberman, Noted Researcher, Scholar ACTE: Why is it important for teachers to take on leadership roles without necessarily becoming part of administration? AL: The reason it’s important for teachers to become leaders—not neces -sarily administrators, although some do— is because we do know and have plenty of evidence that teachers learn more from one another than any other single place. That doesn’t mean they don’t learn from research and they don’t learn from profes-sional development efforts and everything else, but the primary way that teachers learn new ideas and how to do different things are from their peers. So one of the things we’ve learned is that teachers who become really articu-late about particular ideas turn out to be people who can facilitate learning for their peers, not only in their own school but elsewhere. So, a long time ago, other people started recognizing that teach-ers were, in fact, taking leadership roles. I had been a teacher many, many years ago, and I realized that teachers can lead and they do it differently than adminis-trators. ACTE: You mentioned a certain level of articulateness about ideas. What are some characteristics of an effective teacher-leader, and how do they acquire those characteristics? AL: Teachers become more articulate in many different ways, and this is part of what I’ve written about with Linda Fried-rich and others. Teachers learn how to articulate when they are actually in a va-riety of projects. One of them, clearly one huge thing, is by being involved in such things as the National Writing Project, where people are working on their own writing. They’re giving feedback to other people. By the time they’ve gone through a whole summer institute of teaching each other and getting feedback on their writ-ing and reading research, they become very articulate about the language of instruction, the language, in this case, of writing. They realize, at least in this expe-rience as well as in many others, that they can facilitate learning for adults as well as kids. Part of it is really engaging in and looking at your own work and listening to other people describe their work. Over time, instead of just doing it, as people do when they teach, they can actually talk about it as well, and they can figure out how to facilitate this kind of learning for others. ACTE: What are some of the chal-lenges or obstacles that a teacher-leader would face? AL: That’s a beautiful question. Well, unfortunately, we still have, in many, many, many schools, the culture that everybody is the same. You’re a new teacher, or you’re an experienced teacher, or you’re a one-year teacher or a 15-year teacher, and there’s a leveling of “every-body’s just a teacher.” I think that’s tough for people who take on different kinds of responsibilities that are seen as being different than just teaching students. That’s one reason. Another is that there are schools that are really very dysfunc-tional, and so people are in a culture that’s not caring, that’s not collaborative in any way. Teachers who become lead-ers in those situations also have to really struggle with a culture that’s not support-ive of anybody. Ann Lieberman is professor emeritus of education at Teachers College, Columbia university, and senior scholar at Stanford university’s Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. ACTE: Your latest book is How Teachers Become Leaders: Learning from Practice and Research . From your research, what is the status of teacher leadership in schools today? AL: I can’t give you numbers, but I think, generally, any school district that has any kind of school-reform effort has teachers involved in leadership. It may be called different things, but they’re clearly providing leadership. 14 Techniques April 2012

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