Salt Lake City, UT
Where Do We Grow From Here? “That’s not a typo, by the way,” reassured Jon Quam, followed by some good-natured ribbing. (There actually was a rare typo on the cover of our conference binders, however, that said “Where Grow From Here?” Very Yoda-like, actually.)
That was the theme of our weekend retreat as we dove into the personal and professional choices that we all must make as our Teacher of the Year terms officially end, and our longer journey as teacher leaders begins. As Jon frequently reminds us, “you will always be the 2008 [insert state name here] Teacher of the Year.” Our voices will be heard, and our words will carry more weight.
So what will we say? What message will we bring to the policy-makers, our fellow educators, and our communities? Ultimately, what will we say to our students, for they are the ones we must answer to. And speak up for!
Teachers of the Year have taken many paths through the years: instructional coaches, dept. of education employees, consultants, administrators, educational product developers, and yes, even classroom teachers. In fact, most of us return to the classroom to do what we love most.
But we return as different people. Not only in our pedagogy (which we have reflected upon and collected many new ideas for,) but in our roles as teacher leaders.
When a leader continues to prove themselves “in the trenches,” they are more effective and their voice is more respected. Like my colleague from Montana, Steve Gardiner (see “The Schmuck and the Streakers” post from Sept. 25th, below), who runs in every practice with his high school cross-county team: when his athletes go to a meet and realize that many coaches don’t run, they tell Steve, “man, that other coach just stands over there and yells really loud!” He’s a coach that isn’t being as effective as he could be.
This year I still feel like I have one foot in the classroom, and now one foot at 30,000 feet. No wonder I feel stretched! But it gives me a voice that would fade quickly if I weren’t still a classroom teacher.
We need to continue to develop this role of the teacher leader, without over-burdening our already exasperated teachers. Teaching part-time and finding other ways to lead and share would be an ideal fit for me and for other high quality teachers. I know there are other creative solutions out there, too. Just don’t stretch us too far. Only grow so much we can.