Perspective

When teachers leave midyear, instructional teacher-leadership keeps classes strong

I recently sat down to talk with my principal about why the multi-classroom leader role has proved so crucial when midyear turnover leaves a teaching team short, or with a long-term substitute.

My journey in education began in 2009 when I joined Teach for America and was placed in Charlotte as a seventh-grade math teacher. In 2011, I left teaching to go to graduate school in Boston for social work, but soon realized how much I missed teaching—so by February 2012, I was back at my old school. The next year, I joined Ranson IB Middle School as a math teacher, just as Project L.I.F.T (Leadership & Investment For Transformation) began. This new learning community of traditionally low-performing schools within Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools aimed to recruit and retain excellent teachers, increase access to technology, and increase in-school and out-of-school opportunities with the help of donor funding.

Now under the leadership of Principal Erica Jordan-Thomas, Ranson is in its fourth year as an Opportunity Culture school, and I am a multi-classroom leader (MCL) for a three-teacher team. We MCLs wear many hats every day—we coach our team teachers using the Real-Time Teacher Coaching method from CT3 that involves live coaching through walkie-talkies, analyze assessment data, pull small groups, and plan lessons. At this high-needs school, we’re successful in large part because of the support and professional development we MCLs get from Ms. Jordan-Thomas in our weekly meetings as the instructional leadership team.

At Ranson, Opportunity Culture has helped us retain more teachers and filled most or all openings before the school year. However, as in all schools, sometimes the school must hire long-term substitutes when a teacher leaves midyear or takes extended leave. Here’s an edited and condensed version of our talk. For more, see a video of our conversation below.

About the author

Molly Whelan is the MCL1 for eighth-grade math at Ranson IB Middle School in Charlotte, where she leads a team of three teachers and takes formal accountability for the learning of all students in the team. Whelan has led her teaching team to exceed growth each year, with an average of 300 students per year.

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