Reflections on New Leadership Roles

Way back in September, I posted about my new leadership roles this year. A couple of weeks ago, Aviva Dunsiger posted this comment about my last post:

I found this to be a really interesting post! I love what you’re doing now in terms of leadership, and it’s definitely clear that you have a lot to share. I’m curious though: now that you’ve begun these leadership roles, what do you think of them? What other leadership opportunities do you want to explore? I’d love to hear more.

Aviva

Life, as usual, took precedence over my free time to do things like blog, but I did promise Aviva that I’d think on her questions and post a reply! So Aviva, here goes…

Role #1: Lead Teacher of the Elementary Connected Classrooms Project

I think of this role as my first taste of administration. I’m in charge of the team (our Elementary Connected Classrooms (ECC) blog with tons of info here!), in charge of the budget, responsible for running our various meetings, and I’m the one reaching out to other teachers for the expansion of the project into communities in our school district. I’ve also been responsible for submitting proposals to present at conferences. I lead the ECC team and feel more responsible for the overall success of this project since becoming the lead. There is a great deal of paperwork and added responsibilities that I had never dreamed of before entering into the role. I am very thankful that Brooke, the former lead and still a close colleague of mine, has been a mentor to me as I continue to learn this role.

One aspect of the role that has been great professional development, a real eye-opener, as well as just plain enjoyable, is the seat on the District Student Achievement Team (DSAT). This group, led by the superintendent Teresa Downs, is made up of the eleven project leaders in the district. All are full time principals or part-time/full-time upper admin in the district; I am the only full time teacher. We meet once a month, participate in a book club (we’re reading Karen Hume’s Tuned Out - a book right up my alley!) and participate in a certain level of decision making concerning student achievement. It’s a day I look forward to and the experience offers a nice insight into many aspects of the profession that I wouldn’t otherwise be privy to. I feel fortunate to be included as a member of this group and do what I can to learn from it and contribute as well.

Role #2: Mentoring a Teacher Candidate

This role has been a real mind-shift for me. I’ve had to let somebody else teach in my classroom!!! That is a tough thing to do, and strange, and difficult to get used to for me as I LOVE to teach my students. That said, my teacher candidate is wonderful and what I miss out on teaching is made up for in a new type of learning. I’m forced to articulate clearly the most essential elements when answering her question or making an observation. How do you simplify 17+ years of experience into a few sentences or a discussion or written observations? It’s challenging me to be concise and be aware of my pedagogy in almost abstract terms ( I’m thinking abstract as in the visual arts in which an idea or image is reduced to it’s most simple/basic form).

Aside from the personal shifts in mindset, I’m also gaining insight from a new educator’s fresh perspective, I’m watching new lessons unfold before my eyes as she teaches and I’m enjoying the chance to work one on one with students while she takes the lead. Being able to work with small groups and spend time with individual students is a luxury with a large, complex group such as the one I have this year and I’m looking forward to that for the next three months. Finally, being around a new almost-teacher like Tracy is a motivating and inspiring experience. She loves working with kids, she is full of fresh enthusiasm and she and I share many similar perspectives on how to work with children in a school each day.

One last, interesting note is that I’m a local who grew up and graduated in this small town, only to return to teach and now mentor another local (Tracy) who also grew up and graduated in this small town, only to return to be a student teacher here. I think that’s a pretty unique situation to be involved in!

New roles to explore

As far as new roles, I’m not sure on that yet. I’ve always thought that after my children grew up, graduated from high school and left home that I would want to go into administration. These new leadership roles have given me more insight into that possibility. I’ve also found that I don’t like being out of my classroom, although I do enjoy the DSAT meeting days and the opportunity to collaborate with others. It’s a tension I’m guessing that many administrators have dealt with and I know for certain now that I want to teach for a long time to come still.

I’m sure that if I wanted to move into administration that that route would be open for me, if not now, then at some time in the near future with a bit of ambition on my part, but I’m even more sure that, at this point, I want to teach and walk into that room and work with those amazing, brilliant, energetic, bursting-with-potential kids each day. I’m teaching my dream job and happy to be here for awhile. The leadership roles are pushing my thinking, making me, I think, a better educator to those kids and for that, I am extremely grateful and thankful.

Well Aviva, I hope that answers your questions. Thanks for pushing me to think this through. I am also grateful and thankful to you :)

3 Comments

  1. Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca) says:

    Thank you so much for such a thoughtful reply! You’ve definitely been busy in all of your leadership roles, and it’s clear that these opportunities have helped you re-look at what you’re doing now and what you want to do in the future. These students are really lucky to have you as their teacher!

    What words of advice do you have for others that are contemplating leadership roles? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too! :)

    Aviva
    http://www.weinspirefutures.com

  2. egregory says:

    Thanks Aviva! I do really appreciate the opportunities to look at my practice and my students’ learning from the new perspectives. It does add new layers to what I do and hopefully makes for a better day for each child that walks into my classroom each morning.

    If I were to chat with others thinking about going into leadership, I would encourage them to follow the #cpchat on Twitter and read the blogs by those who post there. There are many great books recommended by those #cpchat folks and it helps to get a better understanding of what other leadership opportunities look like by following those talented people already moving their careers along.

    I also hope that anyone interested in leadership would be talking with as many administrators as they know, developing relationships with upper admin in their district and also watching for introductory roles that will move their practice out of their comfort zone. Going back to school and doing a graduate diploma or Masters degree is a great next step and there are many wonderful programs out there designed for teachers working full time. I cannot express how much my practice and my life has changed as a result of my Masters studies at Simon Fraser University.

    I think that we are very fortunate today as there are a variety of ways for educators to advance their practice into leadership with and without advancing into administration. Check for what opportunities are available in your school and district and then work towards that goal. Any progress is good progress and patience is key!

    Thanks Aviva! I appreciate you pushing me to think things just a little farther!

  3. dunsiger says:

    Thank you so much for such a comprehensive reply! You gave so many great ideas here. I know some teachers that I work with that are interested in getting more leadership opportunities. I’ll be sharing your suggestions with them for sure.

    Thanks again!
    Aviva

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