I don’t attend a lot of concerts, but last night was easily one of the best I’ve ever been to in my life. I saw the man himself, Billy Joel. That dude brings it! He also makes no qualms about it and recognizes the fact that he has no new songs and knows exactly which ones people want to hear the most. He truly performs for his fans and for his love of music.
One of my biggest takeaways from the concert though, was how Billy made time in the show for others in his band to perform on their own. Some of them were highlighted for their specific instrument (trumpet, guitar, drums, etc.) during some of the songs he performed, but then others were completely given the spotlight for an entire song and he backed them up. One band member gave an amazing tribute to Aretha Franklin with a cover of “Respect” and brought the house down! Another band member sang opera (yes, opera!) his rendition of “Nessun Dorma” and that piece always blows me out of my chair.
These are just a couple examples. I then started paralleling it to leadership in education. How often do we as leaders (school or district level) not only recognize our peoples’ strengths but provide them the stage/medium to showcase those strengths? There is tremendous strength from within if we make the time to recognize it and showcase it. Let someone lead a staff meeting around an area they excel or let them lead a session on a district PD day. Or maybe invite them to write a post for the school/district blog to showcase the awesome things they’re doing. There’s lots of ways to let our people shine. We need to do more of it!
I often see this question in Twitter chats, in keynotes, or when it’s asked of esteemed panelists: “How do we create real, systemic change in education?”.
While I’ve never thought there was one clear answer to this question; one particular action or formula that could solve all the problems in education, I do believe that people (as in you and I and every other education stakeholder) have all the power to make the changes that need to be made for our students. The power lies with us. We should never underestimate the power of a group of people who are well-informed about the possibilities available to our students.
Think about it this way. What if every person that attended a conference, went to an edcamp, participated in a Twitter chat, etc. committed to sharing 1 new idea with just 1 person? Then the 1 person they told commits to sharing with 1 person, and so on and so on. While your school or district likely sees the value in participating in professional learning opportunities, do they see (and hold teachers accountable to) the value of sharing out what has been learned? Not just creating reflection around how it will help me as a teacher, but looking deeper at how it will help me help others.
Just like we should be personalizing and differentiating learning for students, I wholeheartedly believe teachers should get the same in their professional learning. While I’m sure there’s more work to do in that specific area, I think a lot of systems are seeing the value and starting to provide a wider variety of options, particularly self-directed ones. However, we must make a more concerted plan of how our learning is not only going to affect our teaching and learning but how it could affect all teaching and learning. We need to lean more on our own people and empower them to spread their genius to all stakeholders.
“I have nothing good to share.”
“No one wants to hear from little ol’ me.”
“I don’t have anything to offer that hasn’t been shared a million times.”
“What I did isn’t a big deal.”
These are just a few of the statements I’ve heard from teachers over the last many years as I’ve worked with them to build their capacity around technology and innovation in teaching and learning. Whether it’s a teacher that has jumped in feet first into project based learning or a teacher that learns new ways for students to publish their work to the world, I hear statements like those above when I encourage them to share what they’ve done.
To those of you in a similar role like mine, one that delivers professional learning and support to educators; encouragement, and cheerleading is an essential component of our profession. There is no victory too small to celebrate. We now have such a variety of ways to share the great things we’re learning and trying with students that we can no longer afford to not do it. While Twitter and blogging is certainly an option, there are also more localized ways to start. It might just be sending an email to your immediate team or department, or to the staff at your school, or in 5 minutes at a faculty meeting. Share in ways that feel comfortable to you, then once your comfort increases take it up a notch from there.
These are big but necessary steps in your growth as a teacher. Here’s an example from a teacher in my district: Mrs. Romero, who jumped back into blogging after some time away from it to reflect on 1st semester of going gradeless and trying more innovative things in her classroom.
You have the ability and the power to be a leader in your school and in your district. Don’t doubt it! Once you make that step I promise it will not only be rewarding for your colleagues, but for you too.