The book we are reading for the summer for the Teacher Leadership Academy is Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Helping Teachers Develop as Leaders by Marilyn Katzenmeyer and Gayle Moller. I’m blogging chapter by chapter my thoughts and impressions.
Chapter 3: Developing Teacher Leaders
Coming back to the idea that teachers can learn to lead, this chapter discusses professional development and the supports needed for teacher leaders. The criticisms of existing professional development are sound. Their ideas for what constitutes good professional development seem to include collaboration, problem-solving, follow-up support and applicability to the workplace. They all sound good to me! Generally I didn’t underline or make many notes for this chapter – I agreed with a lot of it but nothing stood out to me as a new thought on the issues.
The chapter includes a self-assessment for how ready you are to be a teacher leader in different areas. My strongest area was self-awareness. My two weakest were communication and diversity – because although I can communicate, I don’t do so enough. That has a lot to do with being an introvert. Diversity was basically seeing and accepting other perspectives – which surprised me to be so weak – but then I thought about the fact that I don’t do that as well at work as outside of it.
After discussing self awareness the chapter also brings up the differences among colleagues that can make change hard: “whenever schools attempt to make change, conflict is a natural result.” (p. 59) I have a very conflict-avoidant personality, and I’m realizing that my hesitance to get involved in anything I see as potentially creating conflict is a large part of why I’m so shy to stand out as a leader. The idea that conflict is almost inevitable and that’s okay is actually pretty freeing in my mind. It shifts my perspective from feeling responsible for creating a conflict when I should have somehow avoided it to accepting that conflict will arise and learning how to do deal with it.
Looking back at the last year as my building has tried to put into place a remediation period designed by the teachers, I can see this, and I can see that we have all developed a better understanding of the consensus process. Last summer, as we were developing the program, small disagreements led to long arguments and people were often unwilling to give in a point even after the vote went to another one. This summer as we worked on changes to the program, it felt much calmer. People brought up their ideas, disagreements were stated, we came to a decision and moved on.