Over the past few years, I have learned from and been inspired by teachers across the country—those who have led social justice movements, published books, run for office, or started nonprofits. I have seen how a single teacher can transform education. But this kind of leadership isn’t limited to those teachers who have earned official leadership designations or amassed large Twitter followings. There are also those teachers who lead from within their classrooms and schools without attention and official recognition. These are the teachers who ask pointed questions, make classroom decisions counter to the status quo for the good of their students, and seek to provide quality education no matter how it might impact their reputation.
But I worry that what is often considered “true” teacher leadership is in service of the educational system as it is or becomes about the prestige of titles bestowed upon teachers from traditional educational leaders. I worry that defining teacher leadership in terms of specialized titles makes educators who are not labeled “leaders” feel as if they are not doing enough.
Real teacher leaders are the ones who refuse to let themselves, their schools, their students, their colleagues, and education as a whole stagnate. Here are several lessons I’ve learned from real teacher leaders who model practices I try to emulate every day.