Teacher Leadership in Charter Schools

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November 30, 2011

Tips on developing into a new role at your school

One of the great things about charter schools is that public school teachers can take on a much greater role in the ownership, vision, operation, and leadership of a charter school than they can in a traditional public school. This is particularly valuable if a teacher is interested in "moving up" to a position of more responsibility within their school - but without having to totally leave the classroom.

For those teachers who would like to make the move fully into administration, charter schools provide many opportunities for "on-the-job-training" and "promoting-from-within." Some charter schools make the intentional effort to develop their own teachers for leadership and administrative roles within the school or within a growing "family" of charter schools.

There are several reasons that charter schools can provide these opportunities, but high among them is the flexibility that charter schools have in staffing assignments and the ability to make operational changes without going outside the building for approval. When they are running correctly, charter schools have the ability to respond more immediately to the needs of their students - and to ensure that they are promoting the professional goals of their teachers. When they make it a priority, charter schools can more easily adapt their personnel assignments to help ensure that every employee is placed where they are doing the most good for students - and that teachers are more satisfied and growing in their own career goals.

In considering developing into a larger role in your school, consider the following tips:

You are your greatest advocate in developing in your career. It is critical to let your superiors know about your desire and your career goals. Let them know that you would like to contribute even more than your current role at the school. Really good teachers are often too humble to let you know that they want a leadership role. They think that someone in administration is going to come tap them on the shoulder and say, "We want to promote you." That's almost never going to happen. You need to be your own self-advocate. You simply have to tell people what your hopes, dreams, and career goals are - and let them know that you are prepared to work hard, learn more, and contribute more in order to get there.

Develop your skill set and gain experience. Get involved in as many activities as you can and identify the needs of your school. Ask if you can shadow another leader - perhaps even a leader in another school. Take leadership roles outside your school if you haven't done so already and attend as many local meetings as possible. The more committed you are to the mission, the more likely your superiors will recognize your abilities.

Do not be deterred by lack of administrative experience. Most charter schools are looking for leaders- period. These can be leaders of programs, courses, or even of volunteer projects in the community. Administrators look for the high-energy, self-starters who always volunteer for projects - and then do them well! While charter schools are looking for individuals who are qualified to run a school or specialized program that doesn't necessarily mean certified - especially when you look at the unique of charters as a whole. In closing, the charter school movement is growing rapidly, and it is a great opportunity for different kinds of teacher-leaders to find their niche and to follow their dreams. Remember, the founders of the successful KIPP Academy program - Michael Feinberg and David Levin - were two young "Teach for America" educators who simply had a different way of reaching kids and helping them learn.

This piece was written by Tracey Bailey, a former National Teacher of the Year, charter school advocate, and current Director of Education Policy for the Association of American Educators (AAE). CCSA partners with AAE to offer Charter Employee Services to the charter school community. For more information on Charter Employee Services, visit www.ccsa.org/CES or contact Candice Lamarche, Senior Manager, at [clamarche@ccsa.org(mailto:clamarche@ccsa.org) or 415-845-6017.