Many of us strive to influence the system we serve by focusing on building capacity in order to increase teacher craftsmanship and efficacy.
And yet I wonder, if we strive to build the capacity of those who are not in our direct sphere of influence. Do we strive to support all educators in our profession? What do we do on a day-to-day basis when we are interacting with the profession outside of our regular collegial circle?
About a month ago, I ran into an educational leader that I have always held in high regard. I’ve been fortunate to learn from this leader and garner inspiration to make a difference in education, specifically in the arena of teacher leadership. As we engaged in small talk, the conversation quickly turned to my current role in my district. I was excited to share that I was making an impact at the district level. I confided that the first 6 months were challenging as I found it difficult to not be at a school site on a daily basis. At the conclusion of my update, this individual informed that teacher leaders must work with students. This individual stated that if you do not work with students you are not a teacher leader. Then this individual walked away. I stood there feeling stunned as my professional identity was being defined for me, instead of my efforts defining my identity.
Less than a week after that encounter, I was invited to be a part of a Teacher Leadership Initiative (TLI) event. An event where alumni of the initiative were brought together to celebrate successes, identify areas of refinement, and recommit to the foundational work of the Teacher Leadership Competencies. One part of the event included a TeachTalk where I would address the importance of TLI at the National Press Club. No pressure.
An hour before the TeachTalk, a fellow educator asked me if I was giving a speech that morning. I confirmed that I was indeed speaking. After receiving confirmation, this fellow educator looked at me and said, “Don’t blow it.”
This time I walked away, but once again, I was stunned. Stunned that out of all the responses that I conjured as possibilities, the response I received demonstrated a lack of understanding about professional risk taking.
Two incidents in a short period of time. Now, these two incidents taken separately may have been insignificant, but together, caused me to wonder… Are we our own worst enemy? Does it matter that we strive to improve teaching and learning only to have our own react to us with questions, doubt, and a members-only club mentality?
Consider how many times you have looked at a fellow educator a made a snide comment, or questioned that educator’s intentions. Granted, not all educators have the best of intentions, but what might happen if we began to assume positive intentions and provided support for one another? What might be the impact? I wonder.