The «New» Foundations of Teacher Education – A Reader – Revised edition
Edited By Eleanor Blair
12. Teacher Leadership: Overcoming “I Am Just a Teacher” Syndrome
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Overcoming “I Am Just a Teacher” Syndrome
Valeri R. Helterbran
Eighteen Master of Education students sat in a class titled “Teacher Leadership” pondering how they could possibly be teacher leaders. One offered, “But my principal is our leader. He leads. I follow.” Another said, “Teacher leadership is just a theory, I believe. It does not exist in real life—at least not in my school.” A third said, “I think I have some leadership qualities, but I am just a teacher.”
“I am just a teacher.” This mantra is embraced by legions of teachers across the land. Principals lead; teachers follow. And so it goes. The guiding principles of teacher leadership date to antiquity and received renewed interest in the twentieth century. Over 60 years ago, Bahn (1947) charged administrators with the task of “exploring abilities, releasing creative powers, tapping experiences, and, consequently, developing the quality of teacher leadership” (p. 155). In addition, numerous reform efforts in the 1980s and 1990s recommended “teacher leadership” as a mechanism for widespread reform. Wasley (1991), too, almost two decades ago, led a clarion call for the necessity of teacher leadership and shared decision-making in school improvement. She rightly acknowledged, however, that the body of literature was absent in supporting this concept. Twenty years later, a body of literature has been developed and continues to grow, yet it is poorly understood and only intermittently practiced...
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