Editor’s note: The following post is from Sarah Giddings, an NBCT and participant at the Boston Teacher Leadership Summit held at the beginning of this month. Read her reflection on the summit below.
“What’s your story and who do you tell?”
This quote was a line sung in a vignette about teacher leadership at the third regional Teach to Lead (TTL) summit organized by the US Department of Education and NBPTS and held on a snowy weekend in Boston February 6th-8th. I was privileged to have my teacher leadership idea selected and chosen by the organizers and could not have been more pleased with the weekend, my company, and the fantastic tools we were presented with to help tell our ideas of of teacher leadership.
So how did did I tell my story? It started on Friday with an opening reception sponsored by Teach Plus. I have to admit I was extremely skeptical of the event on this evening titled “Strategic Networking”, which really was like speed-dating for educators. We spent the evening whirling from small group to small group in order to break the ice and have more fruitful discussions with participants. I loved the results and plan on introducing something similar whenever I lead any large-scale professional learning opportunities. I was able to find other people right away that I could make connections with and organizations that might be able to help further my leadership ideas. It was also helpful to match names with faces and ideas about leadership.
As far as Saturday went, I could sum up Saturday by saying it was less about MY story and more about OUR story. I brought a team to help me further my leadership idea including two of the best educators I know – my husband and my identical twin sister. Both of them teach at schools with very different environments from mine so I knew they would make perfect foils to a colleague of mine who also attended and myself. However, we were not isolated from other groups. In fact the TTL organizers made sure that we were seated at tables with other idea groups as well as at least two Critical Friends. These Critical Friends reminded me so much of my National Board cohort reviewing my entries and pushing my thought processes. I was eager to hear from them! Indeed, they helped us sharpen, focus, and ask critical questions of our proposal. This type of feedback was sorely needed, particularly from someone who was just hearing about our idea for the first time! We spent all day Saturday with a variety of sessions and work time centered around our idea and how to create a logic model explaining the inner workings and underpinnings of what exactly we proposed about teacher leadership. My mind felt as pulled as saltwater taffy, but when we stopped just before dinner I realized that this was the first time I had sustained work time on my idea without distraction. It was amazing how much progress was achieved!
Now, who do you tell? When the last day rolled around, we had the opportunity to tell our stories through our logic models around our ideas. We did a gallery walk around the conference room with everyone’s logic model posted. Let me tell you, the level of knowledge, expertise, and teacher leadership contained within all of these leadership proposals was staggering! The gallery walk gave everyone in the room a chance to offer constructive feedback and then we were given work time to work through the suggestions and refining our idea even more. We also had to share the steps we would take in 30, 60, and 90 days for our idea. This addition to the model really emphasized that we were going from ideas to action.
I left the conference and returned to the classroom, but I did not leave empty-handed. Thanks to the tools I learned at the TTL summit, I know the time for action around my idea is now. I am currently embarking on my first benchmark – the 30 day goal and I look forward to sharing my steps as I go with the readers of this blog. I am ready to elevate teacher voices and I hope you will join me. What’s YOUR story and who do YOU want to tell?
Sarah Giddings is an NBCT in AYA SS/H. She is currently an advisor, multi-subject instructor, and curriculum coordinator for the Washtenaw Alliance for Virtual Education—a countywide public high school program. Sarah is also a 2014-2015 Michigan Educator Voices Fellow as well as a blogger for the Big History Project. She loves writing and promoting teacher leadership, advocacy, and education technologies. She spent several years developing & being a teacher-leader at Al Raby High School in Chicago, IL. Sarah enjoys spending time with her family including two adorable daughters and her fellow educator husband, twin sister, and mother.