At Westtown School we have embraced a peer coaching model for individual teacher development. While not every teacher aspires to be a school dean, principal, department chair, every teacher has the potential for true leadership in her classroom or with her colleagues. Our peer coaching program helps to develop these individual talents -- including those of leadership. My own trajectory to my current role as Westtown's Director of Teaching and Learning has benefited from such mentoring by supervisors and coaching by colleagues. Early in my teaching career I was encouraged by my history department chair to take on a new course in a subject area I hadn't really ever studied -- Chinese History. Furthermore, he told me to trust my instincts and adapt that traditionally political history course to my existing background in social and women's history. His confidence in me liberated me to experiment throughout the year and to know that I could share ideas with him and other members of the department. That was one of the most exciting and rewarding years of teaching I had experienced to that point. Over my 19 years of teaching my own experiences as coach, coachee and mentor to new teachers has confirmed for me that school transformation takes place one teacher at a time, that leadership can come from any one of my colleagues, that visionary school leadership means nurturing leaders from within the faculty, that teachers as leaders in striving for excellence in education makes for a strong school.
As a part of our holistic approach to teacher development and by extension leadership development we ask teachers to write goals for themselves each year. While our school has strategic goals and we ask teachers to attend to these as they think about and write their goals, the emphasis is on individual direction in recognition of its power to unleash great creative energy. Just as good teachers try and connect student passion, interest and strengths with their learning so too should teachers as they set their own learning. The goals teachers write become the focus of the relationship between peer coach and coachee.
My work as an administrator is to nurture teacher talents and connect their strengths with those of others. The more that I can hand off tasks to others better suited than me to lead a study, develop a new program, clerk a particular committee, the better I am doing my job as a school leader. Then my task becomes providing support, a sounding board, and occasional guidance to these many leaders within our school. With so many practicing leadership in so many roles we become a community well practiced in leading, collaborating and knowing when to trust someone else to take the lead.