- Building A Learning Culture Within Your School - July 26, 2013
- Professional Development: Teacher Leadership - July 16, 2013
- Professional Development: One Step at a Time - July 3, 2013
- Part 4: How I Created a Professional Development Program and Lived to Tell About It - June 21, 2013
- Part 3: How I Created a Professional Development Program and Lived to Tell About It - June 20, 2013
- Part 2: How I Created a Professional Development Program and Lived to Tell About It - June 19, 2013
- How I Created a Professional Development Training and Lived to Tell About It - June 13, 2013
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In my last article I discussed the first steps teachers would benefit taking when in the process of designing a professional development activity. After those two steps, the project will take on a “life of its own” so to speak, and will be individualized according to the topic and school situation. To be sure, there will be roadblocks in creating a professional development plan, so how in the world can a teacher overcome them? Let’s talk about teacher leadership.
There have been some excellent articles written about the dynamics of schools. Read all that you can about teacher leadership and the implications of leadership. In some cases, your leadership role will be welcomed; in some cases it will be met with hostility; from teachers and administrators. Teacher leaders, from the perspective of my experience, pay some emotional toll. It is a tough role to fill. I think that how it is either welcomed or denounced depends entirely on the philosophy and beliefs of the administrator(s) in your building. Those administrators are not only operating off the traditional roles that have been established in your district but also relying on their own beliefs about leaders. Many people are threatened or intimidated by a strong leader and they see this individual as a threat to what they believe needs to be accomplished. In my experience, I have found that the response of the administrator will be mirrored in the staff. If the response is negative or lackadaisical, the staff will be divided or totally against you as a leader. As a school leader or administrator, all actions, activities, results, occurrences are directly the responsibility of that principal; it all goes back to the principal’s chair.
Think about your own philosophy. You will operate off of your basic beliefs about leaders. You need to understand and be able to express what you think and feel about leadership. Your responses to teachers and administrators will be based on this belief system. Take some time and really think about leaders you have had in the past or about leaders in other areas. What are their qualities that you admire and wish to emulate? Your philosophy will dictate how you present opportunities, overcome issues and challenges, and respond to questions and arguments.
As a teacher leader you will have to have a “foot in both worlds”: teacher and administrator. The way you handle that will be largely dependent on your own personality and philosophy. Practice diplomacy; how do you present an argument? How do you approach a problem? When identifying a problem, do you also present a viable solution? Are you willing to compromise? Always walk away from a situation first with “let me get back to you on that.” This gives you time, which is your greatest asset and your greatest impediment. As a discussion progresses, and issues arise, never forget you can always take some time so that you can formulate a response that is not only logical but also viable.
You need a “critical friend.” You need a person that you can trust who will act the role of “devil’s advocate” for you. This individual will need to spot weaknesses and to discuss “what if” situations or circumstances with you that you can work through with logical and unemotional conversations. This person will be invaluable to you. They will make you a better leader. This person can also be a “sounding board” for you when you decide to make a proposition to a superior. This person will keep a confidence and will not discuss conversations between you without your prior knowledge; this person is a professional in all senses of the word. They have your best interest at heart.
In schools, there is always a staff member who seems disengaged. This is the teacher who grades papers during meetings, reads the newspaper during presentations, is text-ing their friends/family, or works on his/her laptop or iPad when someone is speaking to the group. This is a teacher who feels that there is no benefit in what is being presented. This person is complying with attendance in “body only.” This teacher has decided even before the meeting, that there will be no benefit to them from attending, so they bring what they need to accomplish with them. They are prepared to endure the meeting. As a teacher leader, you can use this disenchantment to your advantage. You can start a conversation with them. Find out what has lead to this position. They did not become a teacher so that they could set through endless, mind numbing meetings. They are suffering from teacher burn-out. People, in general, want to be heard. They want to have other people at least listen to them, even if they don’t agree. In the world of education, we devalue people, especially teachers. Teachers, in my opinion, have been “crucified” for the sake of success on accountability’s cross. If this person is a veteran teacher, and they usually are, to them professional development is “just one more thing” to do, versus teaching the students. If you can enlist this person, and “get them fired up” about your project, you can enlist anyone.
As teachers, as professionals, it is imperative that we start these conversations with each other. It is imperative that we act as support to new teachers. It is imperative that we support each other and create our own solutions. The alternative is what we have now, educational reformers who are not educators.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]