As with effective lesson planning, we have to begin with the end in mind. We have to set our sights on an intended greater purpose. We have to know what we hope to achieve. This is the fundamental difference between being a "missionary teacher" or a "mission-minded teacher."
Another Year, Another Principal: How to Manage Your Relationship with a New Principal for the Good of Your School
Just as a new teacher forms their impressions about students and teaching based on their first few years in the classroom, a principal is forming their initial impressions of the school based on what they see and hear in their first few months. So don't sit back and wait for the principal to figure out what you're working on.
If you find yourself entering the uncharted territory of being a teacher leader, chances are you're writing your job description as you go. In this wonderful new frontier where teachers lead teachers, much is new and much is unknown. What I do know is that without the support of leadership, and their commitment to guiding my development, I would be just getting by, not getting ahead.
Why is it that when teachers become the learners, they are the worst students? How often during PD do teachers arrive late, leave early, talk above the speaker, scroll through Facebook, answer emails, and mindlessly doodle--anything to resist engagement? Many even exhibit overtly negative responses: eye-rolling, sighing, arm crossing, and flat out refusing requests by the presenter to participate. So often in professional development, it seems like no one is happy, no one is engaged, no one is learning.
A quick licensing route perpetuates the misconception that "Anyone can teach." Lessening the requirements for an entry-level license degrades the professionalism of teaching and disrespects the rigor required to obtain a professional license. Instead of seeking temporary fixes, individual states should seriously investigate solutions that offer teaching as a sustainable career choice and do the hard work to keep skilled teachers on the job.
About a year ago I participated in something that has me rethinking this: my first Twitter chat. With a beginner's trepidation, I was at first determined to simply dip my toe in the water and lurk on the periphery of the conversation. Yet, I soon found myself hitting that like button while vigorously nodding my head in agreement.
Twelve years of teaching in a brick-and-mortar school has proven to me that building relationships with my students is critical to their learning. Now, in a virtual school, I struggle to build a meaningful student-teacher relationship reaching the same impact in digital environment.
My to-do list takes the form of a sticky-note wall in my home. These post-it notes remind me--every time I pass my kitchen table--of the many tasks I must complete, and never, not ever, do they diminish throughout the whole school year. When two notes come down, another five go up.
Most of us spend part of our day teaching young people how to get along, and be empathetic toward one another. And when we begin to speak out in broader ways, we do it hoping to make a positive impact and bring people together. As a result, we often find ourselves unprepared to be on the receiving end of someone else's harsh, personal criticism.
The end of each school year is the beginning of the next fresh start for all of us. It is our chance to begin anew, to re-write the playbook, and to get it more right next time. In this way, commencement is for teachers too.