Have you ever heard any of these comments in your middle school?
- Administration just doesn't have time to help all of us
- There is so much to be done
- I don't feel like I'm a part of the vision for my school
- There isn't enough time in the day to get it all done
- There has to be a better way
- I really want more of a coach to improve my teaching
- We have so many skilled teachers on staff who are underused
- My middle school doesn't need to hire experts for professional development when we have such a skilled staff right here
- I'm on initiative overload
- All the things we're mandated to do feel like a distraction at times to our real work with kids
- If only my administration knew first-hand what it's like everyday
Middle schools are busy with initiatives, programs, continuous improvement efforts, school improvement action plans, implementation of mandates from state and federal departments of education … and the list can go on and on. To pull off effective middle level education in the midst of all that is constantly going on requires strong teacher leadership.
Accountability and mandates have forced leaders in a corner where the primary time is spent on data analysis, reporting, and compliance monitoring. While accountability is important, middle grades leaders can take a hands-on approach that will allow valuable insight in the education system of the school. The right tools and supports for developing hands-on teacher leadership can take a middle school to the next level with student achievement.
We know that building level administration alone can't impact an entire school; therefore successful middle schools have strong teacher leadership supports in place. The real question is How do we do this?
1. Hands-on Leadership: Teacher leaders, department chairs, counselors, and administrators can take a hands-on approach to empower themselves and others. Sometimes we have to do things that may seem out of the box to be in touch with the culture and climate in our middle schools. These unconventional ways to become involved will lead to leadership insight that can guide decision making.
2. Developing Teacher Leaders: With most middle schools only having a few administrators it is not reasonable to think that the sole leadership responsibility can reside with principals and assistant principals. Teacher leaders are critical to the success of middle level education. Sadly, schools often lack a plan for developing leadership amongst teachers. This step is vital to a shared leadership approach that can permeate an entire school culture.
Empower your school with these two strategies to launch your climate for achievement and continuous improvement to the next level.
Dr. Nikki Woodson is a faculty member of the AMLE Institutes for Middle Level Leadership and superintendent of schools for the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township in the Indianapolis area—one of few districts nationwide to offer International Baccalaureate to all students in all schools. Previously, Dr. Woodson served as a teacher, special education program manager, assistant principal, principal, director of communications, director of staff development, director of continuous improvement, and assistant superintendent.