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 4: Understanding Myself and Others as Teachers and Leaders
The title nicely sums up the point of the chapter. Going to do this one a different way, with some quotes from the chapter and then my thoughts about them.

p. 69: “It is difficult for them [teachers] to think differently about schools when traditional education served them so well.”

I find this to be very true, even as someone whose education to be a teacher focused on non-traditional methods and ideas from the start (Gettysburg was all about constructivism, George Mason focused on progressive and social justice education, with a nice dose of action-research and collaboration). I know that many things work better than the traditional education I got in much (not all!) of my schooling, I know that how I learn is unusual, but I still find myself seeing it as the default. It’s what I do when I’m out of interesting ideas – and anything else still counts in my head as an interesting idea.

p.70: “Inviting teachers to compare what they say they believe with their actions can also test their assumptions.” “The focus of the school may be proclaimed through a lofty mission statement, but the actual practice in the school may violate the expressed mission and supporting values.”

Yes and yes! I had a huge crisis of faith in myself as a teacher when I realized how far my teaching style had strayed from what I truly believe is important due to the pressure to conform to the state standards and have students succeed on the state test. Grad school helped me start to find ways to do both, but it is still hard. I doubt it will ever be easy since the educational philosophy that the whole idea of standardized testing is based on is opposed to much of what I believe about education. As for schools, it often feels like the mission statement of most should actually be “our mission is to make AYP.” As a teacher I’ve learned that what you assess is what students focus on and put more effort into. The same holds true for schools. Nobody assesses us on “preparing digital citizens” or “creating lifelong learners” or whatever other buzzwords we’ve stuffed into our mission statements, so most of our effort actually goes to the things we do get judged on.

p. 71 “The balance between the needs of different generations is a major factor in today’s schools.”

I often tend to discount a lot of generational politics and generalization. I feel like a lot of it is silliness drummed up to make news. Also, people have been complaining about people younger than them being lazy, selfish good-for-nothings since there have been people older than other people. (“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words… When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint.” – Hesiod, 8th century BC).

However, I do give some credit to their discussion of generational differences in context of their later discussion of the fact that teachers will be at different stages of adult development and have different life responsibilities that may be affecting their willingness to step forward as a leader or get involved in change. Certainly someone who has young children is going to have a different perspective on work than someone who is old enough to be my parent and already done raising their kids. I like the reminders that they give to realize that your colleagues who you might want to diss for not participating may have other priorities or issues you don’t know about.

p. 77 Disillusioned: “Teachers may have begun their careers with an idealistic view, but after years of disappointment in frequently shifting innovations, they may protect themselves by refusing to accept change.”

This is incredibly common. I know it is one of the major factors discouraging change among many teachers that I know – why put effort into something that you will be told to stop doing in a year or two? It’s also completely understandable – how are they to know that this change will actually be supported and given a chance to mature? Also, teachers are so often taught some new strategy that we have to use without being shown any justification behind it. Often there is no valid scientific basis for all sorts of educational fads.

p. 79 “A first step may be to facilitate activities that focus teachers’ attention on the diversity of educational philosophies in a specific school.”

This would be really interesting to do in my building – I’m very curious to see the results and discuss it! I went ahead and did the educational philosophy assessment in the back of the book that they refer to, but I’m still organizing my thoughts about it.