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Teacher Leadership: Ostrich Syndrome

ostrich-by-ltshears.jpg

Head in the sand or stick your neck out? Those are often the choices that we, as teachers, face when offered leadership opportunities. Teacher Leadership is an integral part of leading and learning in our schools and classrooms. We often underestimate the power of influence that we possess as individuals, schools and larger groups when dealing with students, families, communities, school systems and educational policy.  So, if you are ready to stick your neck out, what next steps should you consider?

  • Determine an area of need. What is an area of improvement that needs to be addressed?  It is essential when choosing to take on a challenge that you understand it and the implications fully.
  • Assess yourself. Do you have the time and energy to devote to making these changes? There is nothing more detrimental to your perception as a teacher leader than unfinished business. It is okay to say “No, I’m not ready to tackle this right now.” It does not mean that you are any less passionate about your ideas or concerns; it is simply a way to confirm that you appreciate the seriousness of the issue enough to realize that it deserves your dedication and attention.
  • Gather information and resources. We are trained to collect and analyze data to inform instructional decisions and planning in our classrooms. Tackling issues within our schools and communities is no different. If you are concerned about staff morale, have survey data that clearly states these issues. If you are looking at trying to implement new instructional strategies in reading, gather research about your school’s current programs and the programs that interest you. Know the in’s and out’s of your areas of concern, as well as the data and research to support your solutions.
  • Make a plan. If you attempt to address an area of concern without a solution in mind, you are just complaining. You will not be viewed as a teacher leader; instead, you will be seen as a pot-stirrer. The majority of building, district, and state level administrators are much more receptive to “agents of change” who have a well-developed idea of how to create this change. Know your data, construct a plan specific to your needs, and organize it.
  • Stick your neck out. This is the hard part. Choose to be heard. Make an appointment with your principal, curriculum supervisor, or district superintendent. Know the channels for addressing issues and respectfully follow them. Most importantly, do not give up. Yet remember, while it is necessary to express your concerns, research, and ideas, it is equally essential to listen. The change you want to see will need scaffolded buy-in, and forming positive, cooperative relationships that stay focused on the ultimate goal will go a long way in fostering this.

If you are questioning your own role as a teacher leader, I would ask a single question back to you. Do you want to be? The most effective leaders emerge  at times when leadership is needed. Be that leader and don’t stick your head in the sand.For more resources on teacher leadership, check out…

Awakening the Sleeping Giant by Marilyn Katzenmeyer and Gayle Moller*

Connecting Teacher Leadership and School Improvement by Dr. Joseph Murphy

VCU’s Center for Teacher Leadership

Leadership for Learning(the Cambridge Network)

* I was blessed to spend the weekend with the North Carolina Teacher Academy talking teacher leadership with Gayle Moller. She is inspiring! Thank you for your time, energy and enthusiasm! Awakening a Sleeping Giant is going to be in hand for many weeks to come.

9 Responses

  1. “Assess yourself” – this is great advice. I’m so guilty of getting exciting and sticking my neck out farther than I have time, resources, or energy for. I’m going through some serious introspection on what I should be doing now because of that.

  2. Great post! Hope this is not a huge digression, but here goes…

    It may not be realistic, but if a lack of support from administrators in your school or district is the norm, then teachers have to reassess if they are in the right place. I think it is a wake-up call for districts if their best and brightest educators start to leave.

    We need more leaders in education now than at any time. It is exciting to me when teachers feel this way and in fact it is the only way we can really move the agenda. As one of my favorite Principals (Chris Lehmann) said at Educon “we need top-down support for bottoms-up ideas.”

    Again at the risk of being too frank, there are some talented educators out there who need to look to move into administration. They understand what needs to be happening in classrooms and are much more in the loop with current trends.

    By the way, going into administration does not mean you cannot still have connections with kids. That role is reserved for Central Office.

  3. Mrs. Hines,

    I am a student at the University of South Alabama, and I am majoring in Secondary English Education. For my EDM 310, our teacher, Dr. Strange, asked us to follow a teacher for three weeks. Our class blog is http://edm310.blogspot.com At the end of this period, I will post on my blog about my time viewing your blog. You can read my post at http://millerjamielynnedm310.blogspot.com

    I really enjoyed your ideas about taking leadership at school. I have always been involved, and as a teacher, I hope that I can have an influence on important issues that arise. Your suggestions are extremely helpful, and I plan on sticking my neck out. Thanks for the advice.

  4. I like your take on having a possible solution before you come into visit the administrator. I know I always find myself more approachable when those pointing out concerns have potential solutions.

  5. Kelly,

    My name is Marybeth Shanahan and I am commenting on your blog all the way from Mobile, Alabama! I attend the University of South Alabama and I am in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class. I will be following your blogs for the next three weeks. We just recently Skyped with you. You had so many GREAT tips that will really help me in my future as a teacher! I enjoyed reading your most recent post, Teacher Leadership. It is so great to hear what you have to say about these type of issues. Since I am not a teacher yet there are so many things I am not aware of that go on in the teachers life! You did a wonderful job on organizing the steps to being a teacher in leadership! I can’t wait to read your next blog. Thank you!

  6. I am currently a student at the University of South Alabama, and have gotten the assignment to follow your blog. I was very impressed with this post, and I am looking foward to future posts. This post was very organized and clear, and very easy to extract information that will help me to become a better teacher.
    Thanks
    Carl Herring

  7. Hello Kelly,

    I am currently a student at South Alabama enrolled in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class. I know you had recently skyped with one of his classes which is great. He had posted that chat on our class blog so that others may watch it. I really feel that the information given and advice will really help me out when I become a teacher. Thank you for your thoughts.

    Brittany Heiss

  8. […] the fundamentals of my teaching practice in one way or another.  Kelly Hines’s blog, “Keeping Kids First” recently had a post which seemed to address, in a very practical and inspiring manner, the […]

  9. obviously like your website however you have to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it very troublesome to inform the truth then again I’ll surely come back again.

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