The start of the school year comes with a variety of emotions for teachers. I am always excited, anxious, hopeful, and panic-stricken. While I am starting my 14th year at the same school (I really never thought I would stay in one place this long), I am starting this year with a slightly different job description. In addition to my role as a band director at Johnston High School I will be part of our building’s first steps toward a formal teacher leadership initiative. The state of Iowa is funding schools across Iowa to initiate teacher leadership programs. I will be serving as a Lead Teacher in my building and I’m looking forward to the possibilities and challenges that come along with this new role.
Part of what is exciting about this new part of my job is that we are building something where nothing previously existed. We get to decide what teacher leadership looks like at Johnston High School. It’s exciting and it’s a little scary. Teachers have long complained that our systems don’t hear our voices. This initiative has the potential to empower teachers in ways that we haven’t even imagined yet. I am primarily excited to watch other teachers in action. My hope is that a significant part of this position will involve watching teachers in their classrooms (and having teachers in my classroom) and talking about the art of teaching. In the past we haven’t had much of a chance to do that and this program has the possibility to make that happen on a regular basis.
I know quite a few people who are dubious of this initiative. Some of my best friends and most respected colleagues have expressed doubts about the program. In honesty, by nature, I am a pretty cynical guy when it comes to educational initiatives. I have been in the business for over twenty years now and I’ve seen all sorts of educational trends come and go. I also recognize those that question why we would take good teachers out of the classroom to do something other than teach kids. Would there be better ways to spend this money? Maybe.
What I do know is that this is one of the first educational initiatives that has allowed school districts quite a bit of freedom in how it is put into practice. Johnston in particular has included many voices to develop our plan. I was on the grant writing committee that worked last year to be part of the program this year. The committee was made up of teachers, administrators and other community members who took the job of developing this program very seriously. It is truly a product of our school districts work. We are also being given great latitude in what it looks like at our building level. It is truly a blank canvas for us to draw upon. Will it made our school better? I’m hopeful. It’s a chance for teachers to really stand in support of one another and to create more opportunities to talk about teaching and learning. That can’t be bad can it?
One More Thought on Fresh Starts
I have been witness to someone undergoing a fresh start recently. My brother made a very brave post on Facebook recently. He shared that he has struggled with alcohol in recent years. It wasn’t a secret to those of us closest to him, but it was not something he had shared with his larger circle of friends and colleagues. I know that it couldn’t have been easy for him, but I believe it was an incredible thing to do. It took a lot of courage to do what he did, but it was an opportunity for him to have a fresh start. There can be comfort in the status quo and sometimes we get trapped in the status quo. I am looking forward to embracing new opportunities and new challenges.