Be audacious

“You have to have the audacity to think that you’re the one person who’s gonna make a difference.” –Henry Cram in the film Standardized. (Click for trailer)

Over the weekend, I saw the new documentary “Standardized.” It’s a film about the perils of high stakes testing and the negative effects this creates for hard-working schools and hard-working kids. No doubt, this is one issue that concerns many teachers–as it should–because we care about kids and we care about our schools. I think that Henry Cram has nailed it here.

Be audacious. Teachers, you are all leaders–every single one of you. It happened the first time you signed your teaching contract, the first time you walked into a classroom, the first time a student asked you a question. There’s no waiting period. Teachers have powerful potential as community leaders–and the community is looking to you for some guidance. It’s time to embrace that role fully with confidence. Speak with authority about the things you know about teaching.

For some reason, it seems like teaching culture only labels a handful of classroom teachers as “leaders.” At your school, it might be the grade-level leader, the district-committee representative, or the mentor teacher. I think it’s a big mistake to limit the idea of teacher leadership to those few teachers who take on additional roles. I think we need more dialogue about how all teachers are leaders. Teachers make big decisions that affect kids forever. When the door closes, who do the students look to? They look to you, teacher friend. Be their leader.

This understanding about leadership potential is new to me in the past year. When I wrote a personal statement about leadership and innovation last February, I struggled for an entire month. I had to battle a big, self-limiting myth: “I’m not a leader because I’m in the classroom.” Where do ideas like this come from? Why had I made this distinction between teacher-leaders and classroom teachers? Typically, I am self-motivated and confident. Why had I taken on this myth in my own professional life? Friends, I think that it’s wrapped into teaching culture and it has the power to render us all voiceless and inactive. This is a very dangerous myth. It took me a month to shake it–to start thinking about everyday leadership and the small decisions that make teachers big leaders. These ideas about everyday teacher leadership will be the message of this blog.

I believe that teachers are everyday leaders who can be powerful agents of change. It’s time shake the myth and drop the apathy. There might be other teachers who dismiss the idea of leadership–but that is not you. Be audacious teacher-leader. You are one of the few people who can make a difference for our students on a daily basis. Lead from IN the classroom.

I'm a National Board Certified teacher (ECYA-ENS) for preschool students with special needs. I earned my doctorate in 2016 from ASU in Leadership and Innovation. My research focused on increasing leadership for special education teachers who work with paraeducators in their schools. I care about teacher leadership, special education, retention of early career teachers, National Board Certification, and improving outcomes for families affected by disabilities. I believe that teachers within the classroom should feel that their voice is valuable--and they should share their perspectives in the community to influence policies that affect us in the classrooms. The day of unfocused chatter is over. Time for action teachers!

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