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Follow-Up: Empowering Teacher Leadership

Lori Nazareno

I spent the last two evenings watching the film Mitchell 20. It begins as a story about 20 teachers at a high-needs school in Arizona who are working to improve their teaching through the National Board Certification process. When an unexpected series of district-mandated events occurs, the story quickly changes, offering a much more broad statement about teachers and education.

One of the film's resounding messages is that teachers have little control over their own profession and even less say-so in the policies that they are charged with carrying out each day.

Imagine my surprise to find that the panel of experts who spoke after the film's screening did not include a practicing teacher! I sat thinking, "How ironic that a movie that clearly advocates for teachers to have more voice in their profession is followed by a panel without a single teacher voice!"

As I reflect on this event and so many others like it, I realize that it is more important than ever for teachers to lead. We must take responsibility for our profession and demand a seat at the table. In fact, we should be sitting at the head of the table and hosting the conversation. When ours becomes a true profession, this will indeed be the case.

And so what do we do in the mean time to move toward empowering teacher voice?

1. When you are at an education-related event and there are no teachers at the table, ask the coordinators why.

2. When you hear of an upcoming education event, ask for the names of the teachers who will be speaking. If there are none, provide names of teachers who have expertise in that area, including you.

3. Develop your own leadership knowledge and skills regardless of whether you have been invited to do so. Prepare as though the opportunity already exists.

4. Speak up with a voice that is solutions-oriented. To dwell in challenges will not solve them. Position yourself as the person with the solution because you are the person with the solution. You are a teacher!

Previously, I wrote about the structures that inhibit teacher leadership. Those structures will change when we create a need and demand for them to change. Developing and using your teacher voice will help to create that demand. In Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire, Deepak Chopra says that preparation + opportunity = luck. We live in a time of great opportunities disguised as challenges. Those of us who are prepared will experience the "luck" he speaks of and will be able to drive the changes that our students and our profession so desperately need.

Lori Nazareno is the Co-Lead Teacher at the Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy in Denver.

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