Sunday, January 15, 2017

Leadership Challenge

I became a teacher because it is my calling. I know-cliche, but it is true.  I didn't initially want to hear the call, but after a major upheaval in my life, I had to listen (that whole story is a series of blog posts that I will spare you).  I have tried to make decisions and develop practices based on what is good for kids, not fads, not what is easiest for me, not what has been past practice.  I truly believe if we all could just keep that focus central, so much of education would become easier.  It isn't about the adults in the system, the politics, or even the parents-it is and always should be what is best for kids.

Last week my peers challenged me on my admittedly narrow definition of "leadership," and I felt compelled to look more closely at that, especially after reading Truths 2-4.  Kouzes and Posner ask "What does it take to be the kind of person, the kind of leader, others want to follow, do so enthusiastically and voluntarily?" (16).  This is the kind of responsibility and power which I think I meant to discuss in last week's post.  I think there is a difference between role model and leader, between mentor and leader.  I can see myself, and take pride in, the opportunities I have had to be a role model of this amazing profession and have been able to mentor new teachers.  I owe a debt of gratitude to the amazing people who mentored me; education is truly a pay-it-forward profession.  I find these moments of modeling and mentoring easy and rewarding; I am comfortable and know I can impact students by impacting other teachers.

However, the kind of leadership Kouzes and Posner are detailing is of a completely different caliber.  This is the role I have always assigned to administrators.  I always viewed it as their job to lead the staff, yet I find myself being put in a position this year to have to step (maybe leap is more apt) outside of my comfort zone and lead the staff as we explore grading practices.  I am not even sure I want this role (and the frustration and responsibility and stress) nor am I sure I possess the patience, the persuasion skills, or the endurance to take this on.  Self-preservation looks mighty fine--pull in, take care of my own classroom and kids, do what I know is right.  Yet, I believe this conversation and change is good for kids, so I am torn and (somewhat unwillingly) am putting myself out there.  As much as I try not to take resistance and opposition personally, the elements this book espouse do make it personal.  Tough contradiction to navigate.

Yet, if I am going to true to my guiding principle, I must choose this path, no matter how uncomfortable it makes students are depending on me to do what is right for them.


  1. Jen, I admire your transparency and honesty. I believe in you in taking this leap and allowing others to hear your perspective. You just need to keep it in your mind at all times that what you are doing is best for kids, just like you said. If you do that, then you will get your message across in the best light possible. Keep going Jen! I can't wait to hear more about your journey!

  2. I can understand how you might feel that the descriptions fit more towards administrator roles. My thought is that it is because this book isn't designed for teachers. It is more broad and with a business emphasis. If I could ask, what is it about the three things from this week that you feel dont relate to you? I think that you certainly communicate your values, have future/goals in mind, and most of all are credible. Just curious to your thoughts. Thanks!

  3. I appreciate your struggles! Leadership use to equate to a position of power or title change or top of the organizational map. But it's more than that Jen. One of my favorite quotes by John Quincy Adams, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." I think teachers have power not only to inspire their students, but can also empower their peers, their administrators, their community. Here is an article that talks about teacher leadership roles - (Cindy Harrison and Joellen Killion) you might find interesting. One thing is for sure - I owe alot to teachers leaders (both past and present) to helping shape who I am today!

  4. Wonderful post Jen. I enjoy reading your honest and central focus of what is best for kids. I don't think that you give yourself enough credit when it comes to leadership. There is a cross-over between being a mentor and a leader. Knowing you as I do I know you have led many a change not only in your classroom, but also in your classroom.

    I understand your point that the focus must remain on the students. I agree fully. As leaders I think we need to be sure our system supports students realizing and reaching beyond their potential.

    Thank you for all you do for students! You are a leader!