Access the blog as it originally appeared in Education Week and Rick Hess's blog Straight Talk
A few weeks ago, I watched the National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star basketball game be played in New Orleans, LA. What struck me about this game, as with all All-Star events, is that it wasn't the same game that's played during the regular season. Sure, there were similarities between this All-Star affair and regular season games (e.g., there were officials, the same rules applied, there was a large crowd, there was a winner and a loser, etc.). But what made the All-Star game a very different game was that each player on the court was a star on his regular season team, and this fundamentally changed the game.
When reflecting on the importance of teamwork, Michael Jordan said it best: "Individuals win games, teams win championships." When it comes to running effective schools which have the power to transform the lives of students, I can't think of a truer statement. Over the years, I have learned that effective schools rely on effective teams.
Teams and Schooling
Ever since Race to The Top was signed into law nearly nine years ago, there's been an intense focus on teachers. In my humble opinion, this was a correct focus. For too long, it appeared as though policymakers and educational leaders thought about the role of the teacher more symbolically than substantively and strategically. That is no longer the case. Recently, the role and voice of teachers has been front and center; and I couldn't be happier.
At the same time, this can't be a zero-sum game when it comes to the need to ensure school leadership receives the substantive and strategic attention it deserves. And I would go even further to suggest the real secret sauce for school success happens when teachers, teacher leaders, and principals come together to distribute the leadership of schools.
What is clear to me after nearly 30 years in education is that great schools require 1) visionary strategic principals, who empower 2) capable and emboldened teams of teacher leaders, to 3) inspire and support great teaching and learning to happen all day, every day, for each child.
Running an effective school is a team effort. Only through these collaborative efforts can leadership teams and teachers make smart decisions about the "stuff" of schooling, such as:
The Next Movement: Teachers, Teacher Leaders, and Principals—Teaming Up
I am so excited to see the number of teacher and teacher leadership groups that have come to life over the past few years. They've ignited a much needed movement. Teachers and teacher leaders are elevating their voices and their practice through groups like Teaching Partners, New Teacher Center, Center for Teaching Quality, Teacher2Teacher, Educators for Excellence, TeachPlus, Teach for America, as well as AFT and NEA.
I would argue that principals should be looking for ways to partner with teachers and teacher leaders to create empowered school teams. I am convinced these types of efforts—similar to the ones that Tony Bryk, Louis Gomez, and the Carnegie Foundation espouse in their work with Network Improvement Communities and the work of Kitty Boles and Vivian Troen in their work on the Transformative Power of Teacher Teams—are the collaborative partnerships we need to make real progress in schools all across the US.
In my view, the real way to continue America's greatness is to ensure the following quote by John Dewey is more than a symbolic, feel good gesture, but one we strategize around and hold ourselves accountable to, as teams: "What the best and wisest parents want for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything else is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy."