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Home2024 IssuesFebruary 2024Teacher to Teacher Leader

Teacher to Teacher Leader

By Hayo Reinders
Cambridge, 2023
ISBN: 978-1-00-901491-5

Too often, perhaps, language teaching professionals are reluctant to take on additional responsibilities in their own (or other) institutions since they feel it will involve extra administration and supervision. However, although leadership and management are often related and may appear on a continuum, the term ‘leader’ in this title does not refer to what we would normally consider management. As chapter one outlines, if you are mentoring, sharing materials, involved in action research or simply motivating colleagues, then that is what the author would describe as leadership; more specifically, this involves what he terms ‘leading from behind the scenes’, perhaps at a lower, but equally important, place.

Part One of this title looks at personal leadership; firstly getting to know yourself as a leader. Curiously – and I was left wondering at its relevance – it then looks into supporting student leadership. But by far the most useful chapter in this part (and perhaps the whole book) is that on leadership through research. Here, the author describes the value and potential benefits of research, then provides a concise explanation of the differences between two main types, action research and exploratory practice. Related to the latter is an approach that was new to me: appreciative inquiry. Other very helpful sections in this chapter cover sharing research insights gained with colleagues, plus co-researching.

Part Two concerns community leadership, and looks at building supportive communities by making a language teaching department more inclusive and accommodating by means of networking, cooperation, collaboration and partnerships. Throughout each chapter, sections appear on common concerns, such as whether or not to invite the manager to the safe space created where teachers can voice their real opinions. My own opinion is they should not.

Each chapter ends with the outline of a personal project for potential leaders-from-behind to engage in. Resistance and conflict are certain to appear when innovation is on the horizon, and the author provides valuable pointers for dealing with both, such as having what he terms critical, fierce and courageous conversations. It’s always good to see teacher wellbeing highlighted, and although techniques for enhancing wellbeing are listed on page 98 of the book, we are reminded that teachers do not burn out; chaotic institutions and systems cause this to happen.

The final part, on professional leadership, veers away from the notion of leadership
as described above and opens with a rather theoretical chapter on understanding the organisation we might be involved with.

For leadership to run smoothly, it’s vital we are aware of the stakeholders involved; these are individuals, groups and organisations affected by project development. Communicating with stakeholders and how to gain approval from those such as the Director of the institution’s language centre and IT support are explained in detail.

The final two chapters are devoted to fostering innovation and attaining sustainable education, both of which are largely theoretical. Language teaching professionals likely to benefit the most from this title will be those wishing to put into practice with others in their institution their skills and knowledge acquired on recently completed DELTA or Master’s courses, although I would recommend selective reading of the chapters.

Image courtesy of Library
Wayne Trotman
Wayne Trotman
Wayne is a teacher educator at Izmir Katip Celebi University in Izmir, Turkey. Wayne has been involved in language teaching both in the UK and overseas since 1981. He holds an MSc in TESOL from Aston University and a PhD in ELT and Applied Linguistics from the University of Warwick.
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