Some initial reflections from my time so far at the Teaching and Learning 2015 Conference in D.C.:
The first big takeaway: teacher leadership positions need position in the system.
Ad-hoc or “anoint and appoint” teacher leadership simply does not last.
In other words, for teacher leadership to matter, it has to have a place…a permanent place…in a district’s system, hierarchy, contract and culture. It cannot be something someone does for a while because they’re good at it: rather, it must be an expected part of the system.
The first session I attended was “Teacher-Led Professional-Based Learning,” hosted by Lucy Steiner, Mark Sass and Chris Poulos. The info they shared built upon a foundation based on the Pahara-Aspen work (aspeninstitute.org) which explored teacher leadership and building systems that work. Their goal: to help teacher, their schools, unions, and districts implement collaborative, job-embedded professional learning that leads to better student learning.
The panelists shared a shocking statistic: across the nation a school district will often spend six to nine thousand dollars per teacher, per year on professional development. Their point was simple: that investment, often on “outside” experts, wasn’t paying off. Instead, districts and systems would be better off investing that money back into their own system through teacher-led, job-embedded professional learning. Mark Sass put it succinctly: “workshops just don’t work.”
From this particular session, I’m bringing home this key learning, among other great ideas. In their research, this team uncovered the key needs around teacher professional development that works: