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Leading from within the classroom

April 23, 2014

Teacher Musings:

After a decade of teaching it turns out my development as an educator hasn’t been as linear as I would have expected.  Back in 2004 I didn’t think I would be a teacher in ten years.  I was Career Ladderpretty sure I wanted to stay in education, but I planned on being a literacy coach or a director-of-instruction or a Teach for America program director, or even a new teacher developer. I was ambitious; I wanted to “move up” in my career, and getting out of the classroom seemed to be the way to do that.  Not to mentions that those jobs also seemed quite a bit cushier: no papers to grade, time to go grab a quick cup of coffee between meetings, etc.

Now, a decade after I started in this profession, I can’t imagine myself out of the classroom. Even more than that, I find myself trying to cut back on some of the “teacher leader” roles I have taken on.  Starting in my second year of teaching I was leading PD (note: that year the “leading” I did would be better termed “arrogant failure”).  I went on to become a literacy coach for a year, and then to re-enter teaching in a school where I quickly took on a professional development leader role in addition to teaching.  Yet, the longer I function in this “professional development” leader role and the more I interact with the coaches and administrators around me, the more I realize that both my heart and my ambition lie fully in the classroom.  I no longer hunger to “climb the career later” our of the classroom.  In fact, I don’t even desire to take on a dual “teacher leader” role much any more.

Part of my desire to spend less time as a “leader” stems from the fact that my time is much more limited than it was five years ago – I now have two children of my own.  But I also have fallen back in love with teaching: the complexity, the opportunity to learn and see improvements right before my eyes.  When I recently reevaluated the things that bring me joy and the roles I want to take on, teacher of reading and writing was one of them.  Administrator was not.  Leader of PD was not.  Just like I have made some conscious decisions to set aside time for my family, I have had to do the same for teaching.  Slowly but surely I’m becoming a minor player in PD instead of a driving force.  I’m working hard in my classroom, and I’m excited to share what I’m learning with my colleagues, and of course learn from them.  But I’m making fewer powerpoints.  I’m planning fewer adult learning activities.  I’m spending more time working on being the best teacher I can.  And I’m starting to think that this is ambitious enough teacher leadership for me.

One way I’ve been getting more engaged with other teachers is by writing about my teaching!  Check out my recent article in Edweek Teacher: ‘You Mean I’m Not Done Yet?’: Using Portfolios to Improve Editing Skills

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