Sunday, January 8, 2017

"You Make a Difference"

Growth is never linear when we are thinking about learning.  It is intense and rapid in the beginning stages, then slows, but often has little "blips" of intense growth.  I went into teaching with a personal expectation that as soon as I didn't want to go to work, I would quit teaching.  While I framed it as love for the job initially, I now know that part of that love is continuing to learn and grow professionally, no matter the rate.

My earliest professional mentors were many of my high school teachers; however, many of these were the "what not to be" examples, as I perceived many of them as stagnant and out of touch.  My most earliest positive leader-mentor was in my first job.  I loved and admired the woman who took me under her wing.  From my young vantage point, she appeared to have it all figured out.  She was so knowledgeable, so calm, so together--I knew I wanted to be her when I was older.  She taught me both professionally and personally, and I know she had such an impact because she took all of me in, not just the professional part.

Flash-forward 21 years, and here I am--feeling no where near where I still believe my mentor was at my age.  In fact, even coming to terms with the fact that I have been teaching 21 years and am a veteran member of the staff is a challenge--how could I possibly know enough yet to be a leader and why would anyone listen to me?

While the opening chapter of The Truth about Leadership goes straight at my inner voice, I'm not convinced yet.  I believe I matter, and I want to continue to learn and grow, but I really struggle to see myself as the same caliber of teacher-leaders that have so influenced me over the years.  I know I have a strong vision and passion, but I am not willing to force that passion or those choices on others.   The choices I have made and will make for my profession are my own; I cannot begin to presume or suggest that others must follow the same suit.

My current learning curve is focused on mastery learning and truly examining my grading & assessing practice and reporting.  Much of this is difficult learning as it stems from years of past practice and status quo, but I am searching for my own path in it.  I am not sure I can lead effectively yet as I still have so many unanswered questions myself.

And, if I am totally honest, leading is scary and hard.  To put yourself out there, to conscientiously work toward change is a soul-baring journey, and while it shouldn't feel personal, it does.  It is also tiring and frustrating to believe deeply in something but be blocked and rebuked by people you respect and hoped would be swayed.

But even that is part of the learning...responding to the failure and struggle, choosing to continue or not, regrouping and trying again...still learning and growing.


  1. Jen, I see you as a role model and leader for our district. I think you see yourself differently than others might. My first impression of you was that you were a strong and confident teacher in the district and I look up to that. I also appreciated what you stated about not wanted to force your passions onto others. I don't think that is what "great leaders" do. By following your passions, you empower others to find theirs.

  2. I am piggy-backing on what Katie said. I too see you and your passion empowering others to find theirs. I am also learning that there are lots of different ways to be a leader. I don't always believe that leaders have to force their opinions on others or know all the answers. In my experience I have found leaders that are more "quiet" leaders. From them I've learned from their questions, from their actions, this is the kind of leader I see you being. I know that I have learned a lot from the questions you've asked in our courses and from hearing you share what you've learned from your teaching experiences. And I've most definitely learned and felt led by your transparency in your blog posts. No doubt in my mind that you are a leader.

  3. Jen I am going to have to agree with these ladies as well. You are secretly leading by example. The way you carry yourself as well as approach situations has you most others radar. We all see you are doing incredible things within your classroom but most importantly you have the perseverance to make those incredible things known to others as well as your students, even if you are not shouting it from the rooftops.

  4. Thanks for the affirmations and compliments-you have given me a push to dig a bit deeper on what "leadership" really means.

  5. You model honesty and a mindset focused on growth. That's why I look up to you. The growth-focus actually undoes your age -- I feel like an equal to you (and the rest of the math team) because you don't assume that age = knowing all answers. You are always willing to examine your practice. That said, the honesty side does draw on the years of experience and doesn't accept some fluffy philosophy as a good enough reason to completely change your practice. You seek the best teaching possible using the old and the new. You listen to others, but don't hold back your honest thoughts. That's why I think you're a powerful peer leader.