Good teaching—Interrupted and teacher leadership gone wrong

Teacher leaders are not the same as teacher evaluators. All too often their roles become convoluted and inexperienced teachers are granted the leverage to counsel teachers who may have been unfairly targeted.

Renee Moore has written a really important piece about a former student of hers who is now a teacher called Good teaching—Interrupted. The young man has been very successful in the classroom but now, due to an administrative change is at the receiving end of school-wide “reform” at the hands of a single outside curriculum consultant (with limited teaching experience). As Renee explains, there are very troubling racial overtones of the situation in her Mississippi Delta context, where black teachers have been targetted and dismissed while white teachers from outside are encouraged to move and teach there for short term. Please read her post to better understand what’s going on.

This is not the first time I’ve heard or seen such a story of good teaching interrupted. Top-down micromanaging of teaching is why many of the best teachers leave the profession. Interestingly, this is also a story about teacher leadership gone wrong. I don’t know much about the consultant in this situation but evidently she taught for a few years before getting her current position. Most of the people in positions like hers were once teachers—though some for surprisingly little time.

Some people move from teacher to teacher leader all too quickly. I may have been guilty of that, but my leadership roles involved facilitating team meetings and writing about my experiences in this blog and other places. I was not managing other teachers’ teaching. I was not evaluating teachers, nor was I looking for compliance on an agenda I created. Moving into a position where I evaluate other teachers’ work is unappealing to me. I’d rather not have that kind of power or responsibility when it comes to another person’s craft. Part of that is because—eight years into teaching—I’m still actively developing my own craft. I recognize that while there are important common skills and bases of knowledge that support good teaching, my process and path in teaching is unique. I need to come to some stopping place with that before I believe I could, with an open mind, judge another’s teaching.

That is to say that teachers leaders, especially those in supervisory roles, should be accomplished in their own teaching. There are many good teachers with just a few years of teaching but I wouldn’t yet call them (or myself three years in) accomplished. They don’t yet know who they are as teachers and should not be in charge of other teachers’ practices.

Teacher leaders should not be hungry for power over other teachers. Leadership allows teachers to make an impact beyond their own classrooms but positive impact and control are not the same. This story and many others like it show that shortsighted leadership or abuse of power drives good teachers out of the classroom. Exactly the opposite impact most leaders intend to have.

 

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