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February 12, 2016

Defining Teacher Leadership

Is the goal of teacher leadership to "improve teaching and learning practices?" Well--it's one possible goal. But isn't there a panoply of goals involved in teacher leadership? What about the assertion that we're wrestling with leadership for one reason---to increase student learning and achievement? Pushing teacher leadership into the "practice" box and narrowing its scope to jazzed-up instructional strategies and "measuring" learning is precisely where "reformers" would like to lead us. Notice who's being "influenced" in the definition-- not policy-makers, the media or the general public. Stay in that classroom, teacher. We'll make the big decisions that shape your work.

February 06, 2016

So Normal It Hurts

The National Teacher of the Year has often been someone selected for their powerful, unique story. Mary Beth was simply a great teacher, from a medium-sized town in Minnesota. She was powerful in a completely different way. Time and time again, I heard her say: Any teacher can become a leader. You don't have to have a dazzling presence or a compelling background. Normal people can lead. Look at me, she would say. I'm so normal it hurts.

January 27, 2016

Do 'Upper Crust' Teachers Ignore Our Most Critical Problems in Public Education?

Affluence makes even mediocre teaching look good and poverty can make masterful teaching appear mediocre. It takes many clock hours within classroom walls to decipher the difference. Few education change-makers and upper crust teachers dedicate that kind of time to our neglected classrooms. The essential resource that is missing is our presence. Detroit's inhumane classroom conditions didn't occur overnight; they existed for at least a generation. Where were we?

November 10, 2015

Five Cynical Observations About Teacher Leadership

Who's really in charge of explaining school-embedded teacher leadership, selecting the right goals and purposes for individual classrooms? Who is inspiring teachers to find their own paths--based on the own carefully honed experience and observations--to lead? Is what we're seeing about teacher leadership in the media driven by the big cannons--the federal government, the well-funded organizations and grant-receiving universities--rather than actual teachers working in grubby classrooms, scattered across the country?

November 03, 2015

Certification, Genuine Teacher Leadership, and Power Struggles

When authentic, experienced teacher leaders step out of their boxes to speak about education issues, they always run the risk of stepping on the toes--or in the limelight--of someone above them in the pecking order. Simply expressing a widely shared viewpoint feels like subordination to some school leaders. When teachers have a national platform and thousands of readers or fans--when their voice and leadership are elevated--they become a threat.

July 25, 2015

Local Association President: We Teachers Are Far From Mediocre!

The teachers' union helped us to obtain a living wage by doing what we do best; teach. It is not a perfect entity. It is made up of fallible parts. However, we each contribute the best of what we can--and that is what has made us strong advocates for our students and this educational system.

April 11, 2015

Michigan Math Teacher: No Way Are My Children Taking the MSTEP Tests

To my students: I am so, so sorry. To their parents: please get informed about your options. My own children will not be taking this test. They will be opted out. I will not stand by as hours of instructional time is lost to a test that will not reveal any new information about my child.

April 02, 2015

Four Things I Want to Say to Novice Teachers

Four things novice teachers should know: Welcome to a changed profession. Beware of media oversell. Act on your beliefs--but clarify them, first. Choose your heroes carefully.

March 28, 2015

Nancie Atwell Gets It Exactly Right

Teaching in America has been systematically de-professionalized. It's no longer a job where experience and creativity are valued. The evidence around that--beginning with test score-based teacher evaluation, and ending with federal funding for Teach for America-- is incontrovertible. We keep saying we want teacher leaders at the table, informing policy. But when Nancie Atwell was given a seat at a big, shiny international table, we're stunned when she tells her truth?

March 24, 2015

I Love My Job. Really.

You cannot measure self-esteem, self-worth, or readiness to face the world. You cannot quantify these teachable moments, ever. The more you try to do this, the more you tell me that my professionalism is equated to the scores that a set of my kids have received on a test that has no relevance to their daily life, the more you demean the battle against poverty, adolescence, and apathy that I fight each day.

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