Other Duties as Assigned: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Expert Teacher Leadership
By Jan Burgess with Donna Bates
Reviewed by Ernie Rambo, NBCT
Middle School Teacher and Mentor (NV)
Teacher Leaders Network
The term “leadership” is often used when discussing a school’s administration. More often these days, we’re hearing about the “teacher leaders” in our schools, those who may or may not seek to be administrators but have an interest in more than standard classroom duties.
This book serves as a “how-to” guide for teacher leaders in K-12 schools. Providing possible scenarios of the challenges that teacher leaders might face as they complete their tasks, the book includes ready-to-use resources for organizing, goal-setting, and reflection. I found Other Duties as Assigned to be a useful reference for both novice and experienced leaders.
Teacher leaders can include department or grade level chairpersons, team leaders, and heads of committees. Teacher leaders might be the educators at your school who organize professional learning communities, write grant proposals, or develop action research projects. Whether you are asked to lead or volunteer to do so, teacher leadership can be rewarding -- but it can also be challenging depending on the faculty’s perception of the roles of teacher leaders in their building.
Other Duties as Assigned presents effective strategies to help a teacher lead effectively while still maintaining positive relationships with one’s colleagues. Jan Burgess and Donna Bates provide a framework for any leader, new or experienced, to take charge of a project or duty without being perceived as taking over the task.
The authors develop a bridge to connect current academic research about school leadership and realistic faculty relationships, maintaining both a collegial and professional voice. In each chapter, Burgess and Bates combine the examples of three fictional teacher leaders, using different metaphors to describe the work that might be required of leaders. In one chapter, leadership is compared to river-rafting, in another chapter it’s rubber bands or real estate. Each metaphor serves its purpose, demonstrating the importance of trusting in the leader, being flexible yet strong, or building relationships.
Questions provided in the book’s margins prompt the reader to reflect upon their own leadership characteristics. Each chapter also includes a “Dear Donna” section where Bates provides suggestions for handling typical situations that a teacher leader might confront.
Other Duties as Assigned does not offer groundbreaking information about leadership. That’s not its purpose. Instead, it serves as a conduit between established research and leadership applications and becomes a one-stop resource for learning, recalling, and applying strategies that will help every school leader keep focused on project goals. You’ll find protocols for getting a team organized and for making decisions, and the appendix includes a “Teacher Leader’s Toolkit” with exercises and templates for reflection, goal-setting, meeting agendas, and evaluations. The publisher also tells us how to access an interactive version of the toolkit at no extra charge through their website.
Other Duties as Assigned can be useful to all team leaders, novice or experienced, because the chapters examine how to develop team unity while strengthening the professional growth of the faculty. For the teacher who is not sure if leadership is the next step in their career, reading this book provides ample information to inform them of what skills and tasks are expected of a teacher leader. For more experienced teacher leaders, reading Other Duties as Assigned can serve as a reference for how to solve problems in situations when things are not going as smoothly as anticipated.
If a guiding reference book is needed for a book study on the topic of leadership, Other Duties as Assigned would be a useful choice. Each chapter invites teacher reflection and examines topics that easily lend themselves to discussion.
Should you say yes the next time your principal walks up to you and asks you if you can do “just one more thing,” you might want to add: “As soon as I’ve read this book….”
Ernie Rambo chairs the electives department at Walter Johnson Junior High in the Clark County (NV) School District, where she also serves as a new-teacher mentor. She’s active in the Southern Nevada Writing Project and a National Board Certified Teacher.