Posted by Dave Orphal on Wednesday, 10/23/2013
Startled, I looked at our school's union representative. I didn’t think I heard her correctly.
“Dave, would you please leave the meeting?” she repeated.
“What?” I asked, incredulously.
“You’re with the administration now, and this meeting is only for teachers,” she had explained.
It was my first year in a hybrid teacher-leader role. I was teaching children during the fall semester. Come Spring, I had moved to an office from which I was coordinating our school’s Small Learning Community grant.
I was embarrassed and surprised. I was also conflict-avoidant, so I left the meeting, dazed.
In the car, my embarrassment and surprise gave way to hurt and anger. I was a stalwart of our teachers’ union. I had been the grievance chair and the president of my local.
“Was? I am a stalwart of our union,” I thought, indignantly.
Ironically, I had a meeting scheduled for the very next day with the then-vice president of my state-wide teachers’ union to discuss the launch of several teacher-led educational policy think tanks. Our union was going to stop being reactive to the educational reform ideas of our political opponents and start promoting teacher-driven school change. I was one of the key players in that movement.
At our state union headquarters, I was still “one of us.” However, at my own school, I had somehow transformed into one of “them.”
Us and Them
Where do teacher-leaders, teacherpreneurs, and teachers on special assignment stand? Are we still teachers? Are we administrators and management? Are we consultants?
In my case, I was part-time teacher and part-time administrator. I still taught kids, but only for one-half of the school year. In the remaining time, I managed our grant., planning and leading our teacher professional development, managing the budget, and writing hundreds of pages of reports. I never evaluated my fellow teacher, which, then, I had thought was the magical line that divided administration from teachers.
I still felt like I was fully a teacher. However, my union reps felt very differently.
What do you think about teacher-leaders, hybrid teachers, and teacherpreneurs? Are they still teachers? Are they administrators now? Are they something in-between or something wholly new?
How can we get past the US vs. THEM dynamic?