One of the biggest challenges I have had to overcome throughout the Masters in Teacher Leadership program is seeing myself as a leader. In the beginning, I questioned my confidence and felt nervous just thinking of presenting in front of my colleagues at work. I thought of myself as a “quiet leader,” someone who leads by example, rather than authoritatively making decisions or directing others. Certainly, all of these characteristics are aspects of leadership. Gradually, I have grown more comfortable with the idea that I am a leader through the support of my cohort in this program. In nearly every course, I had the opportunity to present in front of my colleagues, watch them present, give and receive feedback, and improve my presenting skills.
The opportunities to present with a colleague or small group of colleagues were particularly enjoyable and meaningful. A colleague and I co-created and presented a Non-Linguistic Representations Powerpoint about nonlinguistic representations as an instructional practices to support all learners Collaborating on projects where we were required to present researched practices mimics real life work. For example, in my position as a reading intervention teacher, my team and I created and presented a presentation about our service delivery model, the research behind curricula we use, and defining our role in the building (Safety Net Staff Presentation 2016). Practice I had co-creating and presenting with my SPU colleagues prepared me and increased my confidence when presenting to my staff.
In EDU 6580 Leadership in Education, I was given the opportunity to research a controversial topic of choice. I chose to research the practice of Co-Teaching because, at the time, my school was trying out the co-teaching model for EL and Safety Net services and it was not going well. My research confirmed my thinking that co-teaching is a complex endeavor, and one that takes careful planning, professional development, and support to be successful. In EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, I learned effective professional development is “ongoing, embedded within context-specific needs of a particular setting, aligned with reform initiatives, and grounded in a collaborative, inquiry-based approach to learning” (Zepeda, 2012, p.66). The professional development, or lack there of, around co-teaching at my school was not fulfilling these descriptions. After presenting what I had found about this practice to my SPU colleagues, I presented the information and resources to my administrators in hopes to re-examine the rollout of a new approach, like co-teaching (CoTeaching Presentation). Rather than being insulted about how they went about introducing co-teaching to my staff, my administrators, to my relief, were receptive to my feedback and findings.
While I am not planning on becoming an administrator any time soon, I have chosen to take on the role of Facilitator for my learning community of Safety Net teachers. I will be in charge of planning professional development, facilitating discussions, and running collaboration bimonthly meetings with job-alike peers in my learning community. Hilty (2011) argues, “teachers’ voices are rarely present in policy decisions at the district or state and beyond levels…as a result, teachers do not have an impact on the very policies that affect them the most” (p. 125). Hilty (2011)goes on to state, “our culture underestimates teachers—not only the complexity of their work, but also their potential to contribute to the dialogue about school reform” (p. 124). As a facilitator, I hope to give my colleagues a voice by giving choice in what we focus on for each meeting. . According to the humanistic philosophy perspective, adult learning should be self-directed and transformational, by allowing the learner to critically self-reflect during the learning process (Merriam, 2001). We truly are the experts, working with our students day to day. I plan to create a safe space where individuals feel comfortable sharing struggles, asking for help, and offering solutions in a constructive way.
I will apply what I have learned in the Teacher Leadership program in order to provide relevant resources, guide meaningful discussion, provide teacher choice in topics, and build supportive, trusting relationships among the teachers. I look forward to inspiring each teacher to find the leader within themselves, as I have done over the past two years.
I am grateful to all of my SPU colleagues and professors for providing constructive feedback throughout the program. With your example, guidance, and support, I have gained confidence in my verbal communication skills and presenting skills. I am equipped to share professional practice with colleagues in an organized, approachable way.
E.B. Hilty. (2011). Teacher leadership: The “new” foundations of teacher education. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.
Merriam, S.B. (2001). Andragogy and self-directed learning: Pillars of adult learning theory. In The new update on adult learning theory (1-11).
Zepeda, S. (2012). Professional development: What works. New York, NY: Routledge.