If you are a special education teacher who works with paraprofessionals in your classroom, you might find it challenging to be the team leader. Even if you manage to set aside time for team meetings, it can be hard to cultivate collaboration, delegate tasks, create vision, and manage conflicts as they arise. Or perhaps you don’t necessarily feel like a “leader” or you don’t want to be a “boss.” These are common sentiments among special education teachers. Despite the challenges of the team leader role, special education teachers must embrace these responsibilities to promote student progress and nurture a healthy team of education professionals.
During my doctoral research in 2016, I worked with early career special education teachers (in their first three years of teaching) who met together in a Community of Practice to discuss and improve their classroom leadership. While analyzing data and deciding how to represent findings, I came across the idea of poetic transcription. I loved the concept. In poetic transcription, the researcher arranges participant quotes in one free verse poem that represents their collective voice.
As I looked at the data and reflected on the words of participants during our group gatherings and interviews, I could feel three poems emerging. The first poem represents participant feelings about being together for shared problem solving in a Community of Practice. You can read that poem here. The second two poems offer a before and after picture of team leadership through the eyes of participants. In the first poem, they talk about the challenges of being a team leader. In the second poem, they talk about their growth as leaders who took intentional leadership actions in their classrooms.
I am excited to share these poems with you today. I feel they represent the hardships I faced at the beginning of my special education career and the challenges I still face occasionally when it comes to balancing time, workload, and the importance of nurturing my team. I hope these poems shed light on the shared challenges we face as special education teachers–and also, the importance of boldly embracing the team leader role so the learning community can thrive.
If you are interested in reading more about my dissertation or the process of poetic transcription, you can find more here. I hope you will leave comments about your own experiences leading a team or acting as a team leader.