A Community of Collaboration

Beth Mollenhauer Content

For School Leaders

The Challenge

Too often, school leaders view themselves as leaders who ought to spend their day in an office to manage the business matters of the school. How can school leaders make a transition from being perceived as the boss in charge to a fellow learner among colleagues? Only then will the school community thrive in a culture where ultimately, students achieve.


A community is a group of people with common characteristics. A school leader can develop a community of collaboration among teachers in a school. If a community of teachers is collaborating to do the right work, students achieve. A school leader who works to create a healthy, collaborative community is a transformational leader. This type of leader identifies new goals that will drive changes in practice and persuades others that they can achieve more than they thought possible. This type of leader has a personal vision for the future and works collaboratively to achieve that vision.

A school leader cannot cultivate community if he or she does not believe in it or trust in its value.



To build this kind of community, a school leader must possess the quality of trust. Trust is the fundamental element in any relationship, including the relationship between a leader and its followers. It is essential that leaders earn trust through their sound judgment and consistent practices. Likewise, school leaders need to trust colleagues to perform at the highest standards. A school leader who trusts in the community will see that teachers, students and families place their trust in the mission of the school because the school leader has been proven worthy of personal trust. Secondly, a school leader must trust in him/herself. Effective school leaders know their values and know they are learners who do not have all the answers. When one possesses the quality of trust, the school leader can guide teachers toward a community of collaboration.

School leaders need to be able to trust their colleagues to conduct their duties to the highest possible standards and delegate tasks in full confidence that the job will be carried out. On the other side, teachers and stakeholders must be able to trust school leaders to lead the school in the right direction.



How does a school leader collaborate with teachers to achieve this type of community? It is the responsibility of the school leader to develop collegiality among teachers. Collegiality is talking about practice, sharing knowledge, observing one another and encouraging one another. Teachers are energized when they learn from each other and the motivation and achievement of students rises.

A community of teachers who view themselves as learners is the goal of the school leader. These kinds of teachers explore and reflect on their practice. They desire others to observe their classroom instruction and seek feedback and collegiality. An effective school leader creates favorable conditions for this kind of community. When this is achieved, teachers are open to the practice of recording their own professional growth and development. Effective teachers are learners who reflect on their own classroom instruction and learn from peers by observing one another. When teachers stop learning, students stop learning.

A collegial approach to leadership listens to teachers and works alongside them. A school leader creates the conditions for active, participatory learning. Conditions include structure to provide time and space to create a community of collaboration and, social and human resources to provide time and space to create a culture of improvement.


Key words for effective school leadership:

A community is a group of people with common characteristics.

Collaboration means to work with a person or group to do or achieve something.

A school community develops collegiality and learns for life.

A school leader who trusts in the teachers will reap positive benefits for student achievement.


Effective school leaders view themselves as learners. As learners, school leaders model the example to follow as head learners. They also collaborate among other school leaders to compare their performance with other schools facing similar circumstances. Finally, as learners, school leaders share leadership with teachers as they strive to build a community of collaboration.

School leaders must be able to discuss practice without fear, to share problems without worrying about feeling inadequate, to recognize that adult learning is essential, and need help clarifying their goals so they can act thoughtfully.


Investing in School Leaders

Teaching Training Together has guided hundreds of school leaders to build a community of collaboration. Your support helps us provide more training to more school leaders who will learn to trust in their community and trust in themselves to become more effective.