I'm thrilled to share with you this thoughtful post from my TLN colleague Ernie Rambo, who picks up on a frequently addressed theme around TLN of hybrid roles for teachers, especially teacher leaders, and how educators could be held accountable for their work in such roles. Please share your questions and responses.
Our school district looks really good on paper. School-improvement plans list interventions such as "school-wide collaboration" and "differentiated learning." In our district, teachers receive professional development from Project Facilitators on "Response to Intervention" (recently amended to "Response to Instruction"). Training for "Depth of Knowledge" complements the application of Bloom's Taxonomy in our lesson plans. They appear to be ahead of the game when it comes to providing professional development for the fifth largest school district in the nation.
Every school has teachers who are capable to lead, but don't want to leave their practice behind.
In truth, our school district is only ahead of the game at first glance. The district's Project Facilitators are prior classroom teachers beginning to move up in the ranks of school district personnel. The district requires them to teach specific strategies for implementation in the classroom. Unfortunately, the project facilitators are no longer in the classroom. Many classroom teachers are just as qualified as Project Facilitators to share recent research and school district policies with their colleagues.
Every school has teachers who might not realize that they can lead without having to leave their students behind.
What if? What if each school had the opportunity to release one or two teachers part time each year to be the education research experts at their school? Based on the needs of students identified by teacher analysis of student data, a teacher could spend half of his or her contracted day researching strategies that apply to those needs. After researching, the education research expert could lead discussions with the rest of the faculty, to seek out the best solutions for their students. The education research teacher might support the action research projects at their school, helping to organize data and finding relevant literature that applies to the action research.
The example described above could be termed as a hybrid teacher – one who spends part of the day in a traditional teaching assignment while performing as a teacher leader during the rest of the day. In a recent publication by Alesha Daughtrey at the Center for Teaching Quality and their Teacher Solutions Teacher Working Conditions Team (of which I am a contributing member), hybrid teaching is discussed as one way in which teachers lead, and share in the accountability of a school's performance. We suggest that putting a priority on encouraging teacher leadership can lead to improving student learning. Teacher leaders are immersed in the unique culture of the school and can improve their practice and student achievement simultaneously at their schools.
My Center for Teaching Quality blogging colleague, Kristoffer Kohl, describes his experience as a hybrid teacher, using his expertise with data analysis as his school's data strategist, in this Teacher Magazine article. When his colleagues noted how Kris used student data to steer instruction in his own classroom, they suggested that Kris might be able to analyze all of the school's data – a task that most teachers do not have the time to do as often and with the level of scrutiny that it needs. Kris took on the role of analyzing data for half the school day while teaching writing skills and providing skills interventions during the other half of the day. Kris and his colleagues showed accountability for their students' academic success by recognizing Kris' specialized skills and suggesting that he teach in a non-traditional way.
Creating hybrid teaching opportunities at a school cannot be done in factory fashion. Each position is dependent upon the student's needs as well as each teacher's expertise. Current school schedules do not always lend themselves to teachers with half the student load of other teachers – another example of why cookie-cutter or assembly line designs for teaching assignments do not work with the needs of today's schools. Yet if we see more opportunities for teachers to lead within their schools, such as in the TAP schools, located across the county, or as in other nations, as Professor Darling-Hammond describes in this Washington Post article, the accountability for student achievement might be reasonable instead of an overwhelming burden. We would not just look good on paper, we'd be accountably good.
Susan “Ernie” Rambo is a 23-year classroom veteran who currently teaches at Walter Johnson Junior High in the Clark County School District of Las Vegas, Nev. A National Board certified teacher, Rambo is a member of the Teacher Leaders Network and co-author of the 2010 report from the Center for Teaching Quality, “Transforming School Conditions: Building Bridges to the Education System That Students and Teachers Deserve."