Skip to main content

Join the Community

or Close

Search

Do You See Yourself As The Leader? [The Takeover: Part 1]

How often did you ever sit in a district-wide meeting and think, "You know, if I was up there, I would probably do a better job than this?"

The PowerPoint presentations with the tiny lettering and chop shop imagery slide through in a soporific rhythm, as if you haven't heard it all before. Common Core this, teacher evaluation that, SMART goals and the other. You'll grab your bagel and orange juice and you'll jot down a few things. When your principal asks you how it went, you'll say "Good."

Generally, you get the idea, but you're left wondering, "How can we do this better? How can I do this better?"

Yet, when it comes down to it, too many of us are still waiting for someone to hold their hand into their voices, usher them in as the chosen one, or some movie-made accident that puts them in the seat next to a mayor, governor, or president. More and more, though, I'm starting to see the value in building a groundswell for yourself that doesn't leave those high-ranking officials with much of an option except to know you.

It also goes without saying that our current structures are such that people at a district level sometimes have a hard time relinquishing expertise to teachers, because that's just how we do things. They might give a teacher a pat on the back, perhaps an award, but if the teacher doesn't validate / endorse whatever the leader at that point says, then their voice ought not be shared. Sometimes, it takes a courageous person to step aside and relinquish some of the mic time.

But in case they don't, let's build ourselves up. As educators, we are in front of the students, and so, our voices are extremely valuable in how things happen in the classroom. Otherwise, why would we be in it? People use the word "ownership" as if teachers' every waking hour isn't spent grading, thinking, asking, giving, giving, giving, listening, teaching, not sleeping because of thinking, and forgetting their person in favor of their teacher selves. I propose we see "ownership" as a vehicle for taking on things that already belong to us, separate from whatever agenda our higher-ups believe we should take on.

Unless we make ourselves a viable option for speaking up, we get more of the one-way directives instead of a truly collaborative culture amongst all invested members of the school system. Until then, the majority of us will sit through more speeches, more goals, more slides, and more on teachers' shoulders. It won't be all your fault, but you'll be left wondering why, too.

Part 2 coming Wednesday.

8 Comments

John Holland commented on December 23, 2013 at 10:27pm:

The Taken for Granted

Thanks for the post Jose.

I agree that this is one of the stumbling stones we have to cross.

"It also goes without saying that our current structures are such that people at a district level sometimes have a hard time relinquishing expertise to teachers, because that's just how we do things. "

It is the hegemony of habit. It takes a massive shift in more than one area to change "the  way things are done" in schools.

José Luis Vilson José Luis Vilson commented on December 24, 2013 at 8:56am:

Thanks

Thanks John for commenting. The hegemony of habit. That's a good term.

Rafranz commented on December 23, 2013 at 11:20pm:

The Other Side of This Picture

I agree with you 100%, however I've seen too many instances where teachers have tried to take a stand, lead and be heard...only to be "put in their place" by the admin, campus and district, being uncomfortable with relinquishing control....

stopped that "little revolution" before it even started

What do you tell that teacher?

Joyce Reynolds-Ward commented on December 24, 2013 at 2:10am:

I'm learning to speak out.

I'm learning to speak out. However, I'm also doing it on my way out the door. This is my tenth year of middle school special education....and I just can't keep setting my kids up for failure...which is what Common Core and No Child Left Behind has done for them.

Wendi Pillars commented on December 25, 2013 at 4:46pm:

Definitely a hegemony of habit

Thanks for bringing this up in your typically insightful, honest fashion, Jose. I think one of the stumbling blocks is that teachers think what they do is expected, "the norm", "nothing extraordinary", when, as you elucidated, it truly is. You wrote:

People use the word "ownership" as if teachers' every waking hour isn't spent grading, thinking, asking, giving, giving, giving, listening, teaching, not sleeping because of thinking, and forgetting their person in favor of their teacher selves. I propose we see "ownership" as a vehicle for taking on things that already belong to us, separate from whatever agenda our higher-ups believe we should take on.

This is a lot. And teachers have earned the right to ownership and "a bit" of self-proclamation--if you get down to it, the hours we spend with some kids far outnumber the hours spent awake with their own families. Now, let's talk "ownership"!

If teachers are uncomfortable with the thought of building up their own groundswell, then maybe it's easier--and perhaps even more valuable in some respects?--to help build up others' groundswells...because in doing so, it will inadvertently build up your own, making it an absolute "us" thing. Recognizing what others bring to the table will empower, educate, enlighten, and reflect what is most valuable to us.  

Brad Clark commented on December 26, 2013 at 10:33am:

exactly

I think educators have also realized that there is a larger than suspected supply of teachers with the capacity for leading that do not end up as admins.  Some will seek out their own groundswell (what I typically refer to as the Mighty-Magnets-of-Like-Minds); we seek out our tribes and we fight to be heard.

...But what of that larger group of teachers that have the capacity for leading other teachers to more effective practice or a deeper understanding of the teaching craft?  How do the Mighty Magnets of Like Minds facilitate the growth (and essentially confidence) of our fellow laborer?

I could walk into any school building in my state, ask any teacher in the building, "Who is the master teacher in the building?" or "Who has the best questioning practices in the building?" or "Who really understands the role of assessment in guiding individualized learning for their students?"  We could quickly find the teacher leaders in each of those areas of instructional practice.  The answer to each of those questions may be the same person or it may vary wildly, but the question ultimately arises:

Why don't the educators that are the masters of the various aspects of teaching and learning lead the capacity building of their fellow teachers?  WE ARE READY FOR THIS.

We cannot wait for a centralized policy that creates a teacher leadership movement.  We can open-source research based instructional resources and create teacher-led PD while identifying teachers with the potential for leading our profession, building their individual capacity and radically redesigning the new educational paradigm.  

I am in.  Let me know how I can help.

Patrick Sullivan commented on December 25, 2013 at 10:45pm:

Speak or Others Will Speak For You

It's painful to see an education panel in the mainstream media or even an academic institution feature solely education "experts" like Joel Klein, Merryl Tisch, Bill Gates or any one of a slew of painfully ignorant columnists from the NY Times or other outlets.  The actual teaching expertise of these people is close to nil.  Social media gives practicing teachers an outlet to test their voice, build a following and take the debate directly to the policy makers and politicians who have a lot to say about what happens in the classroom.  Great teachers like Jose never stop teaching.  We need to amplify his voice and those most knowlegable about the reforms that will truly benefit students.

Lisa Arrastía commented on December 26, 2013 at 9:37am:

Models that Break with Hegemonic Habits

Schools like Avalon in St. Paul and El Colegio in Minneapolis (and there are others in the nation and outside the US) provide good exemplars of collaborative leadership. Albeit these schools are charters, so certain creative freedoms automtically come with their "license" to be, but their model of leadership, where teachers and students guide each other in a small-school, seemingly leaderless environment (in the traditional sense), is one from which all schools (and districts) can learn.

Join the Conversation!

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Subscribe to Blogs by José Luis Vilson

Stay Informed

Sign up to receive the latest news and events through email!

Sign Up