An important part of our collaboration with the teacher-leaders in our project centered on reframing a definition of leadership that reflected their core principles about students, teaching, learning, and professional development, as well as their approaches to working with others. Through the vignettes and a series of focus group conversations, together, we defined teacher leadership in a way that emphasizes a focus on students, collaboration with teachers, and a commitment to ongoing learning.
Some authors assumed, in the beginning, that leadership meant holding positional authority, working hierarchically, having all the answers, and being solely in charge. As we worked together, we learned that teacher leadership reflects several core principles that are exemplified in their work:
- Advocating what’s right for students;
- Opening the classroom door and going public with teaching;
- Working “alongside” teachers and leading collaboratively;
- Taking a stand; and
- Learning and reflecting on practice as a teacher and leader.
During the focus group interviews that we conducted with 28 of the vignette authors at the final writing retreat, these teacher-leaders articulated what it means to be a leader and how they see themselves as leaders. For some, these were new insights, informed through writing and conversation about the vignettes; for others, this thinking extended their previous reflection on their work as leaders.