And so it begins…
I’m sitting up thinking about tomorrow. It’s our first day back to school wth students, and like my own kids asleep in their beds, I’m wondering/ worrying what the day will bring. My hope is that it brings a new perspective.
I’ve been lucky enough to spend the summer, not only with my family, but with an extraordinary group of educators. The result is that “Mr. Keating” feeling, that ran through my veins 15 years ago when I started, is back. So without getting stuck on needless backstory I’m going to relay to you my guiding principals for the coming years. Thank you to Megan Allen and Sandy Merz for the inspiration, and my cohort partners, Anne Neary, Jessica Roberts, Katie Biggs, Katie Girard, Chelsea Berry, Amanda Rogers, Kathy Renfrew, Betsy Keith, Roz Bryyne , Genessa Zickefoose, Laura Dailey, Megan Paul, Cecily Merrill, Jesse Riemenschneider, Melissa Schumaker, and Gail Parris for your expertise and support.
My Teacher Leader Manifesto
Just a teacher. I said it, in some ways I meant it, and then I engaged in a 15 minute fake re-do argument in the shower the next morning, because of it. It haunted me. It made me angry, that just, hanging out there, a white flag stating that your career holds more value than mine.
It made me think of the first resumes and cover letters I sent out, the feeling I had when I accepted a position, the fear and excitement of walking into my first professional day. It reminded me that I never really cared what others thought before, because it was the prospect of making a difference and my students that mattered most.
So I looked at my old resume, it was short, lacking in experience, but full of life. I quoted Steinbeck, “Many teachers have taught me soon forgotten things, but only a few like her created within me a new direction, a new hunger, a new attitude. I suppose that to a large extent I am the unsigned manuscript of that teacher. What deathless power lies in the hands of such a person.” I needed to reclaim that drive.
So, “just a teacher?” To that I say no!, not anymore, no biting my tongue when someone makes the summer crack, no cowardly shrugging the shoulders when someone asks, “you’re not going to be a classroom teacher for 36 years are you?” No more! My colleagues and I will strip that derogatory term just from the vocabulary of every teacher. I am a Teacher, capital T. In my classroom, my building and my district, I help strengthen the pillars that every community is built upon. I don’t measure my worth by hours, or salaries, or titles; I measure my worth by possibility. The possibility that my brief interactions with students will help move us forward.
In committing myself to that end, I will use the following guiding principles to regain and strengthen that vitality.
1. I will temper my emotions with data, and scholarship. I will not become a slave to complaining and quick knee jerk decisions. I will assume that others have done the same and afford them the same respect I hope to receive. I will act as a professional and utilize protocols to keep interactions professional.
2. I will engage in a constant quest for knowledge. I will ask others for their expertise, champion self directed study, open my eyes to the realities that I face, and search for the tools to address them. I will search out best practice and keep an open mind.
3. I will leave my door open. My room is a classroom for students and teachers. I will let others see and hear my successes and failures. I will welcome in the cynic and the novice and I will ask them for guidance. I will welcome in non teachers to understand our needs and strengths.
4. I will take risks. I will try new things and view failure as learning. I will challenge ideas that are professionally unsound and show others that we should not be afraid to raise questions and offer our expert opinions.
5. I will call myself an expert. I will acknowledge that my experience and education have laid a strong enough foundation to be a lifetime learner. I will redefine the term expert as one that is less about knowing it all, and more inline with wanting to know it all.
6. I will be proactive. I will not wait for change to come to me, but rather seek it out. I will call upon others to move our students and our building towards success, instead of waiting for someone to do it for me. I will use the tools at my disposal and, if need be, find or create new ones to chart a course to success.
7. I will laugh at “burn-out.” I will make time for family and friends. I will lean on my colleagues and offer them the same. I will remember who I was before I was a teacher and remind myself that it is that part of me which makes me a great teacher. Collaboration will be my battle cry. I will urge others to do the same.
8. I will always see the students as the end. There is but one end in education and that is the students who come before us everyday. Every meeting, training, professional conversation strengthens our abilities to serve and guide our students. If those meetings, trainings, etc. are not explicitly directed to that end, see principle 4.
9. I will make the title teacher one of respect. I will showcase the hard work of my colleagues near and far. Build relationships beyond the walls of the school. I will not tell others about the work we do, but show others the work we do. I will encourage, not dissuade my students to become teachers.
10. I will humbly acknowledge that each of these principles will fail if I only rely on “I”