The other day I read an post by Russ Goerend (@RussGoerend), which raised a question by making this statement: Teachers aren’t leaders [Self-fulfilling Prophecies]). Russ wrote this post in response to a conversation he had with Scott Mcleod, where Dr. Mcleod stated that teachers are not “leaders and policymakers who have influence/power.” This statement was in reference to an event in Iowa where Will Richardson was meeting with a handpicked group of ‘educational leaders’ (which appears to include two graduate assistants, not sure how much power/influence graduate assistants have, but that is neither here nor there). I commented on the post and tweeted about it, provoking an interesting conversation with members of my PLN.
Mr. Goerend had a bone to pick with Dr. Mcleod and I am glad that he did. Teachers, particularly young or new teachers feel powerless enough when they voluntarily become a cog in the machine that is education, then to have someone as well respected as Scott Mcleod omit them from a meeting of educational minds because they have no influence or power does nothing to help moral. Dr. Mcleod commented on Russ’ post and even invited him to the event after there was a cancellation. But to be clear, although he states that he sees teachers as leaders in this comment he hosted an event touted as an educational leadership conference and deliberately left teachers out.
My beef is only with part of Dr. Mcleod’s statement, and that is the part that asserts that teachers are not leaders. The truth hurts sometimes and the bottom line is that teachers are not policy makers, and probably never will be in my lifetime. No matter how visionary I feel when talking with like-minded teachers on Twitter, YouTube is still blocked at my school and will be until my Superintendent decides to unblock it. No matter how useful it would be to my students, I cannot unilaterally purchase a laptop lab for my classroom. Furthermore, no matter how much time I think we are wasting preparing students for tests, to the detriment of other essential skills it is my professional responsibility to teach the curriculum given to me by the state education department; the policy-makers.
It is the differentiation of those two phrases that must happen for teachers to maintain their sanity, and hold on to the faith that they truly are making a difference. Teachers are not policy makers, but they certainly are leaders. Conversely, many policy makers I know are poor leaders yet they are given the power to affect the futures of a great number of young people.
Here is my advice to teachers to assert your leadership:
- Be a role model. – Lead students and colleagues by example, practice what you preach (don’t be afraid to preach), and always be true to you word.
- Build real relationships. – Build real relationships with every other member of the system you work in including; students, parents and administrators. If others can trust you, they will listen to your advice. You might not make a policy decision but over time you can have great influence over them.
- Acknowledge & congratulate success. – again with all members of the system.
- Be persistent & pervasive. – insert squeaky wheel adage here, don’t give up!