Principals – Try Team Teaching

“What better way to model learning and pedagogy than to actually teach?”

This quote comes from an excellent article written in 2010 by , a school principal in British Columbia and key member of my PLN. The article, titled Principals ARE Teachers, suggests that school leaders need to find ways to cut down on managerial type tasks and spend more time actually teaching. In his case, teaching also provided him with the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from the excellent teachers in his school. “True leadership”, he says, “happens in the classrooms, hallways, and playgrounds; management happens in our offices.”

I think most principals agree with this statement and would welcome the opportunity to spend more time as the instructional leader of their school. The problem, of course, is that increasing responsibilities and limited resourses stretches principals in many different directions, making it difficult to place an emphasis on any one aspect of their school leadership role. Below, for example, are the areas in which principals are expected to provide effective leadership in the province of Alberta.

Full version – principal quality standard 

1. Fostering Effective Relationships
2. Embodying Visionary Leadership
3. Leading a Learning Community
4. Providing Instructional Leadership
5. Developing and Facilitating Leadership
6. Managing School Operations and Resources
7. Understanding and Responding to the Larger Societal Context

Most princiapls who teach, I suspect, don’t really do so for the reasons Chris speaks of above. I have always taught since becoming a principal 14 years ago, but mostly as a budgetary measure in order to provide prep time for my teachers. I’ve enjoyed teaching subjects like Phys. Ed., Health, Religion, Library, and Guided Reading but have definitely fallen short in the areas of co-planning and collaboration. It always felt more like managing resources than it did instructional leadership.

Well this year things have changed. I’m team teaching. This, I think, is the best growth as an instructional leader I have ever experienced. Here’s how it works. Each class, along with their teacher, joins me in our Library/Media Centre for a 45 minute block of what I like to call “21st Century Learning Time.” I work with the teacher to plan, carry out and assess the projects completed in each block. Each project addresses learner outcomes from a variety of subject areas. The teacher and I both bring something to the table. I bring my passion for technology integration and 21st century competencies and they bring their expertise and knowledge of their grade level curriculum. It’s a win for me because I’m gaining a much better understanding of curriculum, pedagogy, and teaching styles. It’s a win for the teachers because they transfer many of the tools and strategies to their daily practice. And most importantly, it’s a win for the students because they are better engaged in their learning. Often, the 45 minute periods turn into an hour or more. Some of the Web 2.0 tools introduced includ iMovie, Storybird, Glogster, Tagxedo, Twitter, Voki, Audioboo, Kidblog, and Skype.

If you’re a principal reading this I’m sure you’re thinking about time. Teaching, and all the important activities that go along with it, takes time. Time that must be shared with all the other responsibilities required of a school administrator. Well, I’d ask you to consider this – how many of the 7 areas of effective leadership listed above do you think I’ve addressed by team teaching this year?

Categories: Capacity Building | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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13 thoughts on “Principals – Try Team Teaching

  1. Pingback: Principals - Try Team Teaching | 21st Century Learning and Teaching |

  2. Pingback: Principals - Try Team Teaching | Strictly pedagogical |

  3. Instructional leadership is definitely the way to go Greg. I’ve always agreed with the term of the Principal being the Principal Teacher. Like you (BEFORE this year), I often find myself teaching but not necessarily co teaching. When I go into the class to teach a lesson, many teachers sit back perhaps feeling they shouldn’t interrupt me. I’ve said several times that I see my role in the class as being there to learn along with them and their students and I am seeing small changes. Sometimes it depends on an individual being open to team teaching instead of seeing it as one more thing. My next foray is to try and collaboratively be involved in the inquiry learning model in our kindergarten classes. Will let you know how that goes. Enjoyed your topical and timely post as always.


  4. Amazing! I was just discussing this idea with my vice principal husband. I’m a teacher librarian and would love to do more of this, but because I’m “just” the teacher librarian, my colleagues will blow me off in planning team teaching experiences. I’ve just finished my Masters in Ed Tech and I’m dying to try so many of the things I’ve learned about in the last 2-3 years. Thanks for sharing!


  5. Hey Greg – thanks for continuing the conversation. Since that post, I have lost a VP so that has affected my workload but I continue to teach. This year I am team-teaching with one of our K teachers as we are helping students to learn how to blog. We take all our K’s (I grab the ones from the K/1 class) and one of us works on some literacy/numeracy sites with them and the other works on blogging about the words they are learning. I love it as it gets me in the class AND I get to learn about teaching and working with K students – something I have never done. I think it is easy to say we don’t have time but it is better to say “how can we create the time” and get out there and do it.

    I love how you are working WITH teachers in an area of passion to help move teaching and learning in your school.


  6. I am a teaching principal, and I would not have it any other way. I view myself as the PRINCIPAL teacher. I have my own classes but also enjoy coming into a classroom and teaching a concept or topic. I have not yet participated in team-teaching on a regular basis, but would like to start that next year. I like how you are using that team-teaching time to integrate technology with grade level learning outcomes. I will have to implement that when I start. I am moving to a new school next year and am already becoming somehwat of a technology evangelist in that setting. I can’t wait to implement that strategy; thanks for describing your process in this.


  7. I just asked my vice principal if he’d help me teach my students how to use iMovie as I’ve never used it before. We’re going to have the students make commercials or mini-movies about their persuasive writing piece. I’m going to share this with him.


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