Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Learning to Lead

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Learning to Lead

Article excerpt

We've come a long way from the days when teacher ambition and leadership were frowned upon. Let's give those who are learning to master their craft and bring others along all the respect and admiration they deserve.

I learned one of my first lessons about teacher leadership the hard way. It started with a call from a very angry principal one morning when I was a newspaper reporter in Detroit. He berated me about how badly my front-page story that day had damaged teacher I morale in his school. Teachers, one after the other, had come into his office in tears after reading what I had written about one of their colleagues. "How could you do this?" he asked.

My crime? I had written a glowing report about a science teacher at his middle school who had become one of the first teachers in the country to earn certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

I was stunned. I telephoned the PR person for the National Board and sputtered out a description of the call. She wasn't at all surprised. "Welcome to my life," she laughed. In quick order, she taught me this code of the education profession:

Let no teacher ever assume that he or she is somehow better than anyone else. Let no teacher seek individual honor, lest that suggest that others aren't worthy of being honored. Let no teacher raise her head above the crowd.

A few years later when the National Board was well established, I sat with a group of NBCTs to learn how they acted as leaders in their schools. Teacher after teacher described the shabby treatment they received from their peers. It was like a therapy session. They were in pain--hurt by the way colleagues seemed to go out of their way to exclude them from all manner of school activities. After a few bruising experiences, most of them just wanted to close the doors to their classrooms and teach. Forget all that leadership stuff.

Leading to learning

My sense these days is that things have changed. Part of that may be because this newer generation of teachers is less encumbered by a cultural standard that keeps them in line. …

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