What Hollywood gets wrong about transforming schools

by Kristoffer Kohl April 24, 2017

You know at least ten of them. You are might be one yourself. And you see them depicted on the silver screen as Jaime Escalante in Stand and Deliver, Erin Gruwell in Freedom Writers, Louanne Johnson in Dangerous Minds, or the fictionalized John Keating in Dead Poets Society.

I’m talking about rock star teachers.

With chipper montages, Hollywood glosses over the coffee-enabled early mornings, Red Bull-enabled long-afternoons, and wine-enabled evenings of grading and planning. But the toil of teaching is real for teacher leaders who are laser-focused on improving outcomes for students.

Highly effective teachers also enhance the profession through mentoring young educators, coaching colleagues, leading departments/grade levels, and volunteering to chair various committees. Add up these demands, compare to the allotted time, and we have a recipe for unsustainable leadership.

To kick off 2017, CTQ’s first blogging roundtable focused on how teacher-powered schools 1) open doors to adaptive solutions, 2) use data in innovative ways, 3) collaborate with sister schools, and yes, 4) have principals, too.

In this next round, we’ll examine how education can move beyond individual rockstar teachers to collective leadership that elevates the profession. By expanding our leadership lens to include instructional coaches, administrators, and policy advocates, we see teacher leadership as part of a web of support and collaboration that enhances the ability of teachers to improve their practice.

Accomplished teacherpreneurs, State Teachers of the Year, innovative professional development leaders, and at least one district superintendent will help answer this question: how does collective leadership change education from the inside out rather than from the top down? With that as our guiding question, we will also discuss the following questions about collective leadership:

  • While teacher-powered schools are one example of collective leadership, how can leaders collaborate in more traditional models?
  • What is the power of collective leadership in shaping the culture of a school and improving student learning?
  • How can individual leadership create or detract from collective leadership?

How can teachers and administrators support and encourage collective leadership?

CTQ’s support for collective leadership led to some self-reflection on how the organization itself is designed to function. In recent years, organizational science has been captivated by the idea of holacracy, where authority is distributed through self-organized teams rather than traditional management hierarchies.

How does collective leadership change education from the inside out rather than from the top down?

In “Beyond the Holacracy Hype”, Harvard Business Review examines outcomes from organizations that have experimented with the concept, ultimately concluding that holacracy is a spectrum and there are many ways of successfully applying it to existing organizational structures. One point on that spectrum is the self-managed organization, in which “Members share accountability for the work, authority over how goals are met, discretion over resource use, and ownership of information and knowledge related to the work.”

When I think about the ideal environment for education’s primary stakeholders—students—this is the organizational structure I want for their learning. Join us to share your ideas and dreams for how collective leadership might transform our system to better serve ALL students and to better support ALL teachers.

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