In a recent comment on my NSDC blog, Mike Ford wrote, "Teachers are the stability of the system. They must lead, create, and work to sustain all professional developments if the system is to enjoy quality. Unfortunately, in too many systems, a paternalistic or maternalistic view of leadership exists. Folks look to the top to drive change, and, alas...we end up with bulemic systems that binge and purge per the whim of the leader du jour."
Talk about on point. I've been through literally dozens of binges and purges in my 14 years of teaching, never quite understanding how each new decision played a part in the development of human capacity within our organization. While individually, every opportunity was valuable, none was given the complete time and attention necessary to become an integral part of the "way we do things" in our building. Instead, we seemed to flitter from one program to the next---in the proverbial "inch deep, mile wide" approach to professional learning.
And I agree that a "paternalistic view of leadership" still serves as a barrier to true teacher engagement in decisionmaking---but I hold teachers equally accountable for that reality. In the end, teachers have a responsibility to step forward and lead. All too often, we're willing to vent frustration at our lack of involvement, but we do little to make empowerment less risky and more rewarding. Instead of developing the kinds of relationships with leaders that inspire confidence, we sit back and take the "this-too-shall-pass" approach to our interactions with school administrators.
Here's an interesting question: Where does the primary responsibility for engaging teachers in key decisionmaking rest? Do school administrators bear a greater burden in seeking out accomplished teachers who can advise and lead school change? Or do teacher leaders bear the responsibility for building positive working relationships with administrators that can lead to greater classroom influence over decisionmaking?
How do we restore balance to the administrator/teacher relationship in schools? After all, Roland Barth reminds us time and again that the key to success in schools is the relationship between the adults involved in education. Are positive working relationships a matter of luck--happening only when the right people come together in the right place, or can they be taught and implemented across schools, driving systemic change?