Teach Plus is another teacher leadership organization that’s working to change the mindset about school and teacher leadership. Founded in 2007, it recruits teachers who have been in the profession for three to ten years and are committed to staying in urban schools for at least three more years (and nearly all of their teachers do.)
Celine Coggins, the CEO of Teach Plus, says that many teachers “don’t have much interest in administration at all…The key tension is [they] want to be recognized as successful….We really want to change that paradigm and say, if you’re a highly effective teacher and you want to be able to have influence beyond your classroom, let’s pay you to take the time to be able to do that well.”
The “teacher leadership” track isn’t for everyone. Nathan also entered the Master Teacher Program to hone his teaching skills and develop as a leader, but he grew bored of the classroom. “I found teaching a little bit monotonous,” he said. He is now the dean of student support of his school.
Teaching, he says, “wasn’t challenging [after a while],” and he wanted more responsibility and more opportunities to make decisions for the school; though he felt the tension to stay in the classroom, he was ready to move up. He makes a point of many young teachers, too. “Generationally, we are conditioned to go to the next best thing.”
Other teachers and principals I spoke with echoed this sentiment, and research shows that millennials are more likely to look for different career options every few years than their generational predecessors.
“I think it's becoming more common for people my age (and younger, especially) to move quickly from job to job,” says Arianna, a former teacher who will be opening the doors to her new school next fall as the school director. “I can't fault that … but I also believe that teaching is a skill, not an art, and that, as with any skill, people get better at it with analysis and practice.” This analysis and practice will be a large part of her school’s model—though she notes that leadership takes different forms with one common thread: It’s always developing.
Teachers, Arianna says, must “have time to develop before they leave the classroom. Part of that comes from treating teaching as an admirable profession…part also comes from asking those great teachers to engage in serious self-analysis; they have to be able to break down their own practice before teaching it to others.”
Just like students, teachers “want to be recognized for their successes, and … all teachers, even novice ones, can share their successes with each other - that's a form of leadership,” says Arianna. “As [teachers] grow, there will be some who can certainly teach and coach others. It’s really important to keep those great teachers in the classroom, at least part of the day, so they're continuing to develop their own skills even as they develop others.”
There are many types of leadership. Teachers can lead and foster growth in each other as well as in their students—all in the same job.