Vol.#13: Metamorphosis


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?


3 thoughts on “Vol.#13: Metamorphosis”

  1. Erica wrote:
    Change may begin in the classroom, but how do we move it beyond the classroom?

    – – – – – – – – –

    Are you ready for a good old fashioned dose of pessimism, Pal?

    I’m honestly not sure that “we” — meaning motivated, full-time, classroom teachers — CAN push change beyond the classroom.

    I only speak as a guy who has been trying to do that for years — and who has had some pretty darn good platforms to make change from. Yet for all of my pushing and shouting and writing and speaking, I STILL don’t feel like I’ve made any meaningful difference beyond my classroom.

    Sure, I can influence my learning team. And sometimes, I’ve influenced my school.

    But my influence beyond the school — the tangible changes that I can point to and say, “I had a hand in that” — are almost non-existent.

    Sorry to be the raindrop! Hope the comment challenges your thinking in a positive way….



    1. Bill,

      I’m never afraid of realism masquerading as pessimism. In fact, there are some who would say I invented the concept. 😉

      Reading your comment made me think of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s assessment of what’s wrong with US elected officials: http://youtu.be/SSJFbOfA4SE I’d add to his questions: “Where are the teachers?” I agree with you that to make the changes on a larger scale, we need to have a voice on the larger stage.

      However, you’ve challenged my thinking even though we’ve never met. That may directly impact 126 students in my classroom tomorrow that you’ve also never met. And I’m just ONE example of your social media contacts. Therefore, your influence beyond your school is NOT almost non-existent.

      Finally, I think you’re more optimistic then you believe, because why else would you do all that you do? I certainly know it’s not because it’s the easy way.


      ~Erica 🙂


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