The Teacher-leader Conundrum

If you have read my previous post, you will know that in two days I will be presenting at the Office of School’s Conference – Engaging Learners Through Innovative Practice. I was encouraged to submit and EOI for this conference by a twitter colleague, Ben Jones. Having spent a lot of time communicating with a fellow English teacher and twitter colleague, Troy Martin, I asked Troy to co-present with me on leading the implementation of the Digital Education Revolution at our schools. I found writing the EOI difficult, but was pleased (and nervous) that it was ultimately accepted.

(NOTE: If you want to ignore my ramblings, and help out a teacher-leader in need, scroll to my last paragraph! 😉 )

My vision for the conference was simple – share our experiences, our strategies and our visions for the future. Simple, right? Well, no. I created a PowerPoint (I personally loathe watching PPs but felt it was the best mode of delivery for me, using it as mostly timed slides, like a ‘movie’ with lots of images and short prompts for us to talk to) and shared it on twitter and this blog via SlideShare. I got feedback. It was positive. I felt content. Then I started to think, really think.

And then I read a series of twitter posts by my PLN nobility, Kelli McGraw, Jan Green, Tony Searl, Darcy Moore and Jacqueline Woodley. The focus was on leading change – just how can leaders encourage teachers to change from 20th century education model, to a 21st century education model?

Reading kelli’s blog post really cemented a position I had been edging towards in the last few weeks – at what point to I ‘let go’ and allow teachers to learn independently. How much professional development should I ‘deliver’ to teachers? Is being an enthusiastic and energetic promoter of blended learning enough? What level of change/adaption can I expect from my colleagues?

Kelli and Jan lead me to Roger Pryor’s blog post on leading from behind. It is odd how things come together at pivotal moments. Roger’s quotes from Mandella had a powerful effect on me. It reminded me of a video that Troy showed me via a skype chat one night many months ago – it’s in our presentation – Leadership Lessons from the Dancing Guy. I am lucky. I was a lone nut that was nourished by her environment, given time and resources to explore the changes in education that technology is facilitating. And then, through a combination of hard work, passion and sheer luck I attracted a handful of first followers. BUT I have let them down – I have failed to nourish them in return, failed to guide them, to grow them, to support them.

I’d like some help from my PLN and my new readers – how can I become a better leader now that I have surpassed the lone nut phase. I have shown them what is possible and why. Where to now? I feel change is important, but perhaps I have neglected focusing on why it is important. I need to refocus on outcomes – what is it that teachers desire from their learners. How do they do this now and how can technology be used to enhance this? Each teacher needs to be asked ‘why change what I’m doing’? How can I encourage MY learners (the teachers) to engage with this question honestly? How can I make it fun and meaningful when teacher time is so precious?

Thanks in advance. I present this Thursday.


3 thoughts on “The Teacher-leader Conundrum

  1. I don’t have an answer for this one. Tentatively…I think I’m going to take a shot at renewing my ‘lone nut’ status and see what/who follows. If I’m wrong, not many will 🙂

    The new dance: change has to bring happiness, not just more ‘work’. As a leader, I was burning myself out, and essentially modelling that others should do the same. I’d look HSC students straight in the face and wax lyrical about healthy eating, getting sleep, taking breaks…did they know I wasn’t doing the same?

    Some teachers in my staffroom almost wear how little they have slept the night before as a badge of honour. Is this really where I wanted excitement about teaching to lead?

    There will always be a bit of this obsessive tendency going on for me though – I’m too excitable. I can be like a kid with a new video game, the pleasure of learning something new can drive me to extremes! I don’t want this to stop, and I don’t kid myself that I will ever get perfect ‘balance’ in life because my ‘work’ IS ‘personal’. Trying to stop thinking about teaching is as pointless as trying to not read any more books!

    And, my personal vote would go toward banning catch phrases. At the start they always seem so powerful – they provide organising themes and direction for our work. But if I hear one more person tell me how good it is to ‘connect’ without casting a critical eye over what that actually entails…well, you get the picture. One man’s theoretical short-hand can become another man’s oppressive, meaningless box.

    Peace out 😉

    • Yep – I totally see where you’re at. I’m finding myself falling to pieces with tiredness simply because I have been excited about so many new things!

      I keep running a ‘must play with’ list through my head and find there just isn’t the time to do it. I tell myself, slow down, drop some of your responsibilities, do less. But in fact, I just can’t. They all seem too important – but really it’s probably just me being selfish because I’m excited and want to try everything myself.

      I guess the issue with leadership is that you have to share the fun. I love showing people new things and I am often thanked genuinely for my presentations and help (not banging my own drum, trying to stress the point that being enthusiastic/passionate/positive is really useful when advocating ‘change’).

      It’s funny what you say about catch phrases, I ofetn refer to our edutech youtube vids as eduporn – a name coined by Ben Jones or Dean Groom, I think. It gets a little syrupy/lyrical sometimes.

      I think I need to attack leadership like a HUGE LONG dream workshop. I’ve done phase one, inspiration. Now I’m moving on to phase two, practical skills. It’s dry and frustrating. It is also necessary. Not ‘stand and deliver’ practical though – hands on. Guide on the side, help.

      Next stage will be letting them go … or maybe I’m there but fail to let it happen?

  2. Hope it goes well, Bianca. You’re right, we must have been madly typing at the same time! I actually thought your slideshow looked pretty good. Exposure to sites and apps is not a bad thing. Half the stuff I know about comes from my PLN on twitter! Whether people choose to take it up or not, you can’t control. You can, however, be encouraging and helpful, as I’m sure you already have been from your twittering. It’s a great homour to be chosen to present at a conference like this, so Go Girl! expect to hear all about it afterwards…

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