By Kimberly Walden
“We don’t just want educators to be part of the necessary change-we need them to lead it.” –John King, Secretary of Education
In early November, we did just this. The Teach to Lead Summit in Washington, D.C. allowed teams from across the country to gather for two days of planning, developing, and collaborating with team members on their projects to improve teacher preparation programs and to encourage teacher leadership. Teams consisted of active teachers, representatives from university teacher preparation programs, teacher candidates (like myself), “critical friends” provided by the Teach to Lead, and other important stakeholders, with the goal being to encourage all voices to be heard and to gain various perspectives on how to improve teacher preparation programs.
The recurring theme throughout the Summit was the idea of allowing all voices, including teacher leaders and students, to be heard. This idea resonated with me in that often times teachers and teacher candidates feel like our voices either cannot be heard or do not make a difference. Also, we frequently feel like we do not have a safe environment to voice our opinions. If teachers are truly to become teacher leaders, the mindset needs to change so that our voices can be heard. The Summit provided a way to shift this mindset by encouraging participants at all levels to engage in the conversation. Our voices were heard. The experience at the Summit allowed me to gain a new perspective on the importance of collaboration at all levels.
Upon reflecting on my time at the Summit, I recognized that stakeholders – novices and highly expert, in a range of roles really do come together to accomplish a common goal of improving teachers as leaders and recognizing that all voices are not only important, but critical. At the Summit, I saw a high school student and fellow pre-service teachers; we had the opportunity to sit side by side with higher education representatives and superintendents all working together to develop better-prepared teachers and ultimately to help better serve the students those teachers will eventually teach. Seeing all of these different individuals come together with a shared vision gave me a new perspective on the importance of collaboration. It also reaffirmed that everyone has an important perspective and all voices should be heard.
Teacher candidates can and should have more of a voice in our teacher education journey; we must continue to strengthen our skills as we seek out more teacher leadership opportunities. Along with my peers, we are just beginning our teaching journey and obviously have a lot to learn, but we are the future and our leadership is going to pave the way for the future generation. We have valuable knowledge that we can contribute to this exciting journey.
I encourage all teacher candidates and teacher leaders to continue to work together to be part of the teacher leadership conversation. As Secretary King said, we all can help lead the change for more opportunities to exercise teacher leadership to help support the success of our (future) students.
Kimberly Walden is a secondary math teacher candidate in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. She became interested in teaching from her aunt who is an educator in Virginia Beach, VA and from great math teachers that she had throughout high school.