My Teacher Leader Manifesto

My Teaching is no longer limited to the work of preparing students for their futures. Instead, to be a TeacherI must also include working beyond the classroom to rebuild the profession and turn the country away from the abyss and toward a new day in education.

My Teacher Leader Manifesto

Teacher is the pinnacle title of civilization because teaching is society’s foundational activity. However, in American education today there is a nation-wide teacher shortage, a randomly selected teacher is statistically most likely to be in his or her first year in the classroom, and veteran teachers discourage their own children from entering the profession. The situation is unsustainable and education in America may fall into an abyss.

As an accomplished classroom teacher, I work at the membrane through which policy becomes practice. That gives me day-to-day experience with the impact that policy has on teaching and learning. Therefore, I will use my unique, inherent credibility to speak on issues in education and advocate for changes in institutional policy and practice that I believe will most benefit student well-being and the teaching profession.

My governing principles will be to:

  1. Limit my advocacy to issues on which I have direct experience and authority to speak
  2. Inform myself further by reading broadly and deeply on the issues I care about
  3. Encourage the growth and efficacy of the teacher leader movement by drawing attention to colleagues who exemplify great teaching and leading
  4. Fairly represent my views by highlighting the nuances of my thinking and the conditions under which my views are valid or mediated
  5. Appeal to adversaries, many of whom are teachers, in a spirit of understanding, compromise, and reconciliation
  6. Correctly characterize my adversaries and their views and support the fair airing of their opinions
  7. Leverage my advocacy by working with networks whose mission is consistent with my values
  8. Expect to be fairly compensated for my leadership but not use compensation as a condition for engagement
  9. Be human first by caring for my faith, family, and health before all else

My Teaching is no longer limited to the work of preparing students for their futures. Instead, to be a TeacherI must also include working beyond the classroom to rebuild the profession and turn the country away from the abyss and toward a new day in education.

August “Sandy” Merz III, NBCT

I’m surprised how fulfilling it is to put this into words and make it public. Whether you adopt mine, use it as a template, or start from scratch, I encourage all teacher leaders to do the same. And please share!


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  • LizPrather

    Sandy Merz for Secretary of Education

    Fantastic manifesto! When I was an undergraduate in the College of Education at UK, I had to write my Philsophy of Education hundreds of times for clarifying and redesigning as I moved through the program. I’ve found dozens of these over the years, and they are all ridiculous dreck because I was just cobbling together buzz words, bromides and sound bites from various professors and classes. I had no experience or vision, no ethos or framework.   This is an excellent challenge to all teacher leaders, and I accept it.  Look for my manifesto coming soon to a blog near you.  Thank you, Sandy, for such a thoughtful, compassionate, clear-eyed list that represents the values and goals of sustainable education.  Bravo!

    • SandyMerz

      Looking forward

      Thank you Liz for you kind words. I look forward to seeing yours.

  • jeanie


    EXCELLENT!  As a practicing educator and graduate student; I find the notion of writing a :"Manefesto" practical and meaninful for not only the writer but for those they work with and for.  In my humble opinion, such carries working "capital" as opposed to simply writing one's philosophey.

    Thank you so much.


    • SandyMerz

      Capital idea

      Thanks, Jeanie, I love the idea of thinking of this as capital – that which one is invested in and has worth. Thanks.

  • April Coleman


    I know I need to update my teaching philosophy and I have been putting it off. Thanks for the inspiration and the template.


  • BillIvey


    Great piece. I think I could have predicted most of your principles, and I certainly have seen them all in action. 🙂

    I have my response composed (I came up with a list of eight before returning to your blog to look closely at your list, and decided to highlight three of yours as ones that would be on a second draft list) but will have to wait a bit to post it as our school counselor has her first blog posting tomorrow and I want to leave it at the top for a bit before adding another one of my own.

    • SandyMerz

      Thank you too,

      Bill, I think that more than anyone, youv’e inspired me to develop a set of principles to govern my thinking and words. I thought about you, and Renee Moore, and some others a lot while I was putting the list together. I can’t wait to read yours. 

  • johneastin

    Getting to the Heart of the Matter…..

    Sandy, what an inspiring document.  I’m probably most appreciative of the references you made relative to fighting to have your opponents express their views – even when exactly opposite of your own.  It takes an individual without ego to even think of such a thing let alone utter it.  I also hear a deep commitment to seeking solutions using all available resources.  It’s too bad our policy makers don’t believe in such fundamental thoughts.  It seems anymore that so many are more interested in keeping the beast alive rather than utilizing it for the service of the children thereby creating lifelong learners.  Nice work my friend.  


  • SusanGraham

    What a good review!

    What a good idea to revisit this. Years ago Mary Tedrow told me that “You don’t really know what you think until you write it down.” I’ve come to realize just how true that is. So, here’s my revised Teacher Manifesto:

    1. Assume good intentions. To do otherwise is a reflection on one’s own mindset tha it is on others.
    2. Acknowledge the perspective of others. There are as many points of view as their are viewers.
    3.  Ask Why first. If you don’t know Why, then the What, Who, and How are likely to be busy work that doesn’t accomplish anything that really matters.
    4. Avoid letting the How of something is done take presience over the What needs to be accomplished. Purpose should be fixed, process should be flexible.
    5. Own your mistakes and don’t waste time placing blame. Besides being the right thing to do, it’s a more efficient way to move forward.
    6. Share or give away credit. It builds followership, loyalty and shared ownership. 
    7. Lean in by stepping back and making room for others. Accumulated power is temporary, but empowering others is a legacy. It wasn’t about you in the first place.
    8. It’s not about you. That means that in the end, you give it your best shot and you let it go.


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