a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism
This past week marked the third and final Professional Development Institute for myself and the other 2013 Kenan Fellows. It will likely be the last time we see each other until the celebratory events planned at the end of the year when the Fellowship is completed. It was wonderful to see everyone, though it was far too brief. As always, I learned so much more from them than it feels I must ever give back. (I’m looking at you Karen and Vance.)
I don’t know if other Fellows have been experiencing some of the same seismic shifts at their schools that I have been undergoing at mine. However, for me the topic of leadership in our chosen profession was a timely one. I am going through something of a second renaissance as a teacher. This period of self-discovery is in part due to this fellowship, in part due to this blog, and I’m sure in part due to some other factors I’ve not yet identified. In fact, it’s hard to separate how much of the new opportunities have changed how others see me versus how much the change in how I’m seen is yielding the new opportunities.
I feel blessed to work in a school where I truly have the principal’s confidence and support. Back in April, Bill Ferriter tweeted “Are you a Manager or a Leader?“. My current principal is an example of someone who fits the criteria of “leader” on this list. He’s posed more outside-the-box solutions and the question “what do you need?” to me personally than my previous four principals combined. I also highly value what he terms “calculated risks” which are allowed when in the best interest of the students.
In the current climate in Education, it seems teachers are under an unforgiving microscope and are simply not allowed to make mistakes. This has, in my experience, made many school administrators and stake-holders very reluctant to support taking risks. They have favored the use of standardization of instruction and practices. This is easier for them to defend, and it does appear we are now forever on the defense. Digital pacing guides have teachers tethered to a lock-step sameness that serves education with a one-size-fits-all approach. You know. McTeaching.
Standardization can suffocate innovation. Sharing and learning of best practices from each other should never turn into one teacher held up as the model for the only way for it to be done. Having discussion with other Kenan Fellows around how to see myself as a teacher-leader; how to have confidence in that message and to have it heard; was empowering and enlightening. To inspire innovation in others; to carry your light to students and to fellow educators, is an energizing prospect.
The one phrase I loved from this training was that a leader is a “catalyst for change“. I am privileged to be on the cutting edge of a sweeping curriculum movement the likes of which public education in this country has never seen. I don’t know how to put into words how it will continue to impact the microcosm of my own classroom. (In fact, it’d probably be easier to list how it won’t.) Though the curriculum itself would have changed what I am teaching, Fellowship or no. The Fellowship experience is changing how I am teaching it: How I am approaching that change.
Change may begin in the classroom, but how do we move it beyond the classroom?