Supporting the boundary spanners
Developing these “boundary spanner” roles can be challenging, Bagley said. In part, that’s because many schools don’t have structures in place to support them—or a basic understanding of how instructional leadership by teachers works.
“Teacher leadership is often really about more informal leadership by colleagues—which is surprisingly challenging because of power dynamics and other things like that,” Bagley said. “So a big part of what we spend time talking about is how to help teachers to rock the boat just enough.”
However, “rocking the boat” in positive ways only works well when a school has supportive administrative leaders like Jarnot-Benthem, Bagley said.
“The best way to support professional learning is to give teachers enough time and training to do it—to bring them together in professional learning communities where they can learn from and with each other,” Bagley said.
“I feel really fortunate that the conditions for teacher leadership were already present in my district,” Jarnot-Benthem said. “There was an understanding of the idea of informal leadership positions and working on teams. And after going through MIL, I now look at each and every one of my teachers as a teacher leader. I look at their strengths and think about where to apply those strengths, and make it a point to connect teachers who are working on similar problems.”