Tonight I had the pleasure of participating in the #LearnLap Twitter chat (Mondays, 8PM ET/ 5PM PT). This chat based on the book Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz, is something I try not to miss. Not only is the PLN great, but it always leaves me with great information and something to think about. The topic tonight was Teacher-Leaders.
The first question raised tonight was what makes a Teacher-Leader? Is it just sharing what you're doing, both the successes and the failures? Is is helping others when you're in a leadership position? For me, the answer was easy. A Teacher-Leader is one who puts the students first, shares and helps others put students first, and is willing to take risks to do both of the above. Based on this definition, I have become a Teacher-Leader by accident.
Recently I have been asked to put in writing my background experience, not quite a resume, but close enough. Boy was I surprised to see how long I have been helping other teachers . (13 years on the Leadership team?! That one blew my mind!) The difference is I wasn't always thinking of the students first when I did it. There were always other purposes behind my actions. Now, my role with other educators has taken more of a collaborative approach. How can I help you (fill in the blank) with your students to make it more innovative/tech appropriate/engaging? No longer is the focus on what I can do, but what we can do together, with the students at the heart. I think this is also a reflection of how my classroom has changed.
I have become more aware of my role in helping others step up their leadership game as well. There are several teachers on my campus who I have encouraged to share what they are doing, through professional conferences and district PD. They feel they aren't really doing anything worthy of sharing with others. What I am trying to get them to see is that being a Teacher-Leader doesn't mean you do everything perfectly or are better than others. It just means you have something to share that may help another teacher who is struggling in some way or maybe you can inspire someone to try different.
When I started to write, I thought about a comment one of my colleagues made today about how our staff seems to be much more ahead in our ability to integrate tech into the classroom and for professional uses. My friend, Cori Orlando, reminded me that everyone has a different starting point. This would have been the perfect time for me to talk to my colleagues about being Teacher-Leaders themselves to spread what we are doing at our school with those around the district.
I believe everyone has the ability to be a Teacher-Leader. Find your strength and share it with others. For educators, this means your students. For others, it might mean becoming a blogger who shares her thoughts, hoping others can be inspired to change up their classroom.
Yesterday our local PTA/PTSA organization held the annual Junior Olympics event. Every elementary school in the district prepares teams of students for track events, such as relay teams, running long jump or softball throw, and volleyball games. I have been lucky enough to be a co-coach for our volleyball team for several years now. It is always a fun time for the kids and the adults alike (However exhausted we all are at the end!)
This year’s team is what this blog post is about. We held try-outs back in February. Unlike previous years, there was no volleyball instruction during our physical education rotation at the beginning of the year. There were two students who had played for last year’s team who wanted to return. That means we were going to have a very inexperienced group of kids who were going to play together. Try-outs were fun, but made the adults worried as to how we would do in the official games. Previous years have made it to the finals, but never placed very high. I believe 8th was the highest. Considering we are a large district of 18 elementary schools, 8th is still very good. It is all about the fun the students have anyway.
As the newly formed team started practicing, we had two students drop out who needed to be replaced. It was about the end of the 1st month (out of 2) of practices that we finally had a team of students who were playing in the Junior Olympics. Unfortunately, the other coach is a guest teacher around the district could not make all the practices and I was out at least once for a conference. (Thankfully the other coach was my guest teacher!) So even though we had a full team who were almost always around, the coaches weren’t able to be at every practice. (Two middle school former players were a big help as junior coaches though, making it to all but 1 practice!)
As the practices progressed, I noticed that the students were getting better, in spite of a lack of experience or at least one coach missing for each practice. They were taking the initiative to practice as a team almost every recess and lunch period. One of the returning players was helping a new player perfect her serve. (She couldn’t get over the net in the beginning and became one of the most consistent servers by the end). Suddenly players were moving better to go after the ball. Players were communicating without being told by the coaches. There was no pressure by the adults to do it, they were making changes because of each other.
Yesterday when it came time to actually play in the tournament, we had a cohesive team. They were hanging out together before the matches started and worked as a team once we did play. Not only did we win our first 6 matches, the kids were having a lot of fun. At one point as we lost our first game, we talked about how strong they are when they work together. They had temporarily forgotten they were supposed to have fun and that they could rely on each other. Although we lost the next game as well, they went back to playing as a team and made the other team really work for the win. By the end of the day, we earned 4th place ribbons (higher than the school has earned for as long as I can remember and much higher than we thought when we started this adventure together).
Of course the adults never shared our doubts with the students in the beginning. We definitely shared our praise with not just their wins on the court, but how proud we were that they came together as a team. Without the ability to work as a team, they never would have made it to the ribbon round. I am very proud of what they accomplished together!
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching