The past three days, I attended an institute with Teachers Lead Philly. We asked ourselves what it meant to be a teacher leader, while positing that teachers are indispensable agents in developing the policy and practice that affects education in our schools. It was a phenomenal opportunity to connect with teachers who believe in Philadelphia education and have the energy and passion to do right by our students, despite our trying times. Each time I have taken opportunities like this one to reflect and develop my professional practice with other teachers, I have been refreshed and re-energized to enter back into my school and my classroom. Here is a reflection of some of the things I learned about teacher leadership:
We began the institute with the following questions: "What is teacher leadership? What does it look like to be a teacher leader?" We began to unpack and understand this concept in order to frame our work together.
From our shared experiences, we decided that a teacher leader is a lifelong learner who seeks to develop his or her own professional practice while being open to share, collaborate, and learn from others. Teacher leaders never see their professional development as finished because education evolves with our culture. We see the classroom as a complex context, and our relationships with students as incredibly important. Inquiry and reflection are seen as essential elements of our practice because they make growth possible. As teacher leaders, we seek to connect with other teachers in our schools, our district, our nation, and our world.
At the heart of teacher leadership is the development of our own philosophy of education through which we can confidently engage in our practice. Through our own philosophy of education, we are able to think for ourselves and develop out own curriculum rather than being told how to teach and interact with students. Teacher leaders must be intellectuals in their practice, and a goal for us as teacher leaders is to extend this intellectualism, leadership, and belief to all teachers. Every teacher should see him or herself as a leader in their classroom and as a knowledgeable practitioner.
Good leaders everywhere are people who enhance the capacity of leadership and decision making among all of those with whom they work. We developed the concept of "lifting while we climb," so while we make our own journeys of inquiry, reflection, and growth, we model this behavior and invite our colleagues to join us.
As teacher leaders, we make the future of education in our classrooms and schools. We are not passive practitioners along for the ride of policy makers and pundits. Therefore, another important theme of the institute was the hope that this constructive professional agency gave us. While it is a challenging time to be a teacher in Philadelphia, we gave each other hope because we know that our practice, our relationships, and our integrity in our schools do matter to each other and most importantly, our students.
Thank you, Teachers Lead Philly, for this opportunity.