I used to think that I understood children and that therefore I could become a good teacher. Now I see that my understanding of children is only partial, and with regards to individual children, actually illusory. I think I understand them but really I’m just applying rough proxies which don’t work for this child. Or this child. So for some children I need to go back to square one and rethink everything I thought I knew about children and learn some new things about this child and break down my myths about understanding children and becoming a good teacher. I used to think I knew kids and now I see that my purpose is to learn kids, one at a time, always ready for a surprise.
I used to think that my strength as a teacher required standing my ground in the classroom; being firm and confident. Now I believe that my strength as a teacher requires being firm and confident in my capacity to be imperfect. I can admit mistakes. I can ask for help. I can do things over. I can apologize and ask how to be better. These things don’t just help me teach more effectively, they allow me to become a better colleague, friend, adult.
I used to think that in order to lead, you needed to have a title and get paid more. Now I see that it is possible to lead effectively by example; that people often find it easier to emulate and follow behaviors that they like and appreciate in others. I also see that leadership by example can go either way; it doesn’t have to be positive and constructive. Negative leadership is equally possible. That’s the conundrum. (Although few would admit to liking destructive behaviors, every time that we tolerate and accommodate them, we demonstrate where we really stand.) Given that, I try to set the example I (hope to) observe in others. I envision leadership less as a tower of relative importance and more of a circle of engagement with added facilitation responsibilities. There are no titles or formal recognition in this mode of leadership and it has the potential to have influence in some of the most unlikely places.
3 thoughts on “I used to think…”
“I used to think that in order to lead, you needed to have a title and get paid more. ”
At one point early in my teaching career I thought leaving the classroom for administration was a promotion and goal. I went ahead and earned my administration degree during my first few years. During that journey and afterwards, to this day, my perspective has changed and moved towards more of an understanding that leadership doesn’t often have a title. I believe allowing teachers to change perspectives and mindsets is an important part of the reflection process. Thanks for sharing your perspective.
Thanks for reading and responding. I understand why we have administrative structures in our institutions and appreciate that some of the work that goes on is hard to see, yet often allows us as teachers to be able to do our work with less external friction. That’s the ideal. That said, I often think about how we can exercise influence in small and sometimes larger ways simply in the way we deal with others: students, parents, colleagues, community and family members. The title is not the point; our contributions to building the kind of school culture we most want are what make the difference.