4 tips to develop great teacher leaders

4 Tips to Develop Great Teacher Leaders

Teachers leaders change the world one student at a time. Teacher leaders can be developed and nurtured. Here are four methods to make it happen.

1. Teacher Leaders are Multipliers

According to the book, Multipliers, there are two kinds of leaders: multipliers and diminishers. Some leaders help a person operate at more than they are capable of doing. Then there are those sad souls who diminish others. Poor teacher leaders have students wallowing the squalor of low performance.

[callout]Teacher Leader Tip #1: Leadership is often neglected in teacher education courses. Educating yourself on what teacher  leadership looks like comes first. Read books like Multipliers and What Great Teachers Do Differently. Understand the characteristics of great leaders.[/callout]

2. Teacher Leaders Listen to and Act Upon Feedback from Your Students.

In Todd Whitaker’s 1993 research on what makes excellent principals, he found they “routinely consult teacher leaders for input before making a decision.” (What Great Teachers Do Differently, p 92) We should do the same with students.

College professor Dean Shareski asks after every assignment, “How can this assignment be better?”  For example, in a flipped classroom assignment, one student asked, “why not have us create a flipped classroom lesson?” Dean said that suggestion was an obvious improvement.

[callout]Teacher Leader Tip #2: Ask after each assignment or unit: How can this assignment be better? Take the time to listen to your students via anonymous surveys or focus groups.[/callout]

3. Teacher Leaders Help Students See Their Value and Worth.

Booker T. Washington said,

“Most leaders spend time trying to get others to think more highly of them when instead, they should try to get their people to think more highly of themselves.”

When a student is underperforming, I’ve found that it is often an internal struggle. Before students can succeed, they must try. Before students try, they must have hope. Hope comes from knowing that you either have the strength or someone will help you.

[callout]Teacher Leader Tip #3: Help students find their individual strengths. Teachers should be hope-inspiring coaches on the learning journey.[/callout]

4. Teacher Leaders Unleash the Power of Yet.

In Carol Dweck’s TED Talk, she shares how  people with a growth mindset will say, “I’m not good at ____ yet.” In her research, she calls people who think they have fixed abilities: “fixed mindset.” These people rarely level up and are grossly incorrect when they self-assess their talents. Fixed mindset people resist learning.

Those who adopt a “growth mindset” believe that they can improve and level up. Growth mindset people see their abilities as separate from their worth as a person. Growth mindset people learn.

Incredibly, a growth mindset makes all the difference, AND IT CAN BE TAUGHT. A growing body of knowledge on metacognition helps us teach the growth mindset.

[callout]Teacher Leader Tip #4: Understand what a growth mindset is by reading Mindset and other research. Learn the metacognitive techniques that will help your students overcome problems and develop grit. Admit your own “not yet” items to your students as you journey to learn too.[/callout]

When faced with mediocrity or injustice, leaders stand up and say “It is not going to be this way.”  Leaders are visionaries who see a brighter future just past the problem. Most importantly, leadership can be learned and taught. We need teachers to rise up and lead. We need open minds and a willingness to help students (and ourselves) achieve more.
For when a teacher leads, they are teaching far more than content knowledge, but spawn the leaders of tomorrow.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Clara Maxcy June 26, 2015 - 10:31 am

One more resource to add to helping teachers become better at what we do: habits of mind blog from ask-a-tech-teacher Jaqui:

Nidal Khalifeh June 27, 2015 - 7:36 pm

This is a very helpful blog. The blend between leadership and teaching is very important. The feedback on assignments is crucial for teachers to learn and get tips from their students. It is a way of saying to students “your opinion matters and you are an active part of the learning process”. I will recommend it to all the teachers I know :)

Sara M. July 3, 2015 - 11:36 pm

I am currently working on my master’s. The current course I am enrolled in is about leadership in education. The course text we are reading in class in Teacher Leadership That Strengthens Professional Practice by Charlotte Danielson. Danielson makes some very valid points in defining what teacher leadership is and what it takes to be a trusted leader. It takes all kinds of leaders to guide and “spawn the leaders of tomorrow.”

Robert July 5, 2015 - 11:39 pm

These are some really helpful tips! I am a student and this is a very helpful. You make some really keen observations and deductions on some of the ways we should operate as teachers. I love your point about helping students see their value and worth. It is very important that our students feel hope and have confidence in themselves.

jeff September 19, 2016 - 12:16 am

I believe that teacher leaders should be helping students, teachers, administrators, families, and the district directly. Teacher leaders are more than just being a great teacher in the classroom. Teach leaders collaborate their thoughts and ideas with colleagues, helping other colleagues become better teachers. Teacher leaders talk to administrators about new ideas and situations that are of concern within the school system. There are many other ways a teacher leader can affect a district besides teaching in the classroom. As Sara mentioned earlier, Charlotte Danielson wrote a book “Teacher Leadership”. Another book by Richard Ackerman & Sarah Mackenzie in “Uncovering Teach Leadership” also provides great insight to teacher leadership.

Vicki Davis September 19, 2016 - 6:24 am

Thanks for sharing all these resources Jeff!

Natalie Couture July 2, 2023 - 12:18 pm

These are great resources for an aspiring teacher leader. In particular, thank you for sharing these book resources.
As someone working in the field of education, these strategies seem so simple in theory, but in practice, may be more difficult to implement. So many factors within a school environment play a role in how teachers can function in their systems, but things like having a growth mindset, listening to feedback, promoting beliefs of self-efficacy in students, and seeing oneself as a multiplier rather than a diminisher can make a world of difference!

Vicki Davis July 4, 2023 - 1:01 pm

They sure can, Natalie. Good luck on your teaching career and thank you so much for commenting!


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The Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere