11 March 2013

Blurring the Lines Between Teaching and Leading

Eleven years of teaching in high-needs schools proved to be a fulfilling calling.  The rewards of my days in the classroom keep appearing when I see or hear from former students.
Yesterday my son and I were in a local department store purchasing a gift for a friends’ birthday.  One of my former students waited on us.  This student was a teen mom who often considered dropping out of school.  Thankfully, she did not.  I haven’t seen her in five years, so you can imagine my delight when she proudly told me she’s about to finish her certificate to become a nursing assistant. 
Another former student from my days on the Cherokee Indian Reservation contacted me recently.  Her note to me—“I have always had it in the back of my mind to find you and let you know that my senior year English class with you solely, totally prepared me for all the papers I had to do at Western (Carolina University)! So for that--thank you!!”  This student is now a teacher and is happily married with two children.

Though I haven’t been a regular classroom teacher for four years now, my role as a teacher leader continues in the capacity in which I currently serve as a support for teachers and leaders.  I’m delighted when teachers I’ve mentored share with me their successes.  I enjoy hearing about the students and even working with them from time to time because I believe it’s important for us to remember —it’s about “our kids,” not “my kids.”  We have to work together to provide children and teens the learning experiences they deserve.
Working together was exactly my experience last week when I attended a conference in San Diego, California.  Designed to celebrate and elevate effective teachers and teaching (ECET2), this event, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, fulfilled its promise of uplifting the teaching profession and reminding us all why we became teachers.  Three teachers delivered the keynote address—“Cultivating a Calling.”  I dare say there was hardly a dry eye in the pavilion after these teacher leaders shared their stories.  And people tell me I take my profession too seriously?  How can I not?  I am an educator through and through.

I returned from the conference feeling invigorated, refreshed, and ready to continue this important work of working on the work, as a colleague is fond of saying.  Too often in our profession, we see a lack of respect for educators, or we see a divide between administrators and teachers.  Let’s blur the lines between leading and teaching and remember why we entered this profession in the first place.
An early morning trip to the Pacific Ocean with my colleague circle group at ECET2. 
We watched the sunrise and were back in time for a fabulous final day of the conference.  The power of collaboration!