One Step at a Time…

 “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

~Martin Luther King Jr.

As I reflect on my 18 years of teaching, I realize I’ve never felt more restless than I do right now. I feel like I’m on the lower steps of a staircase that climbs toward greater opportunities to do what I’m most passionate about—advocating for change that helps teachers serve their students.

I am honored to share this guest post by Precious Crabtree, teacher at Deer Park Elementary School and recipient of the Virginia Education Association Award for Teaching Excellence.

 “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

~Martin Luther King Jr.

As I reflect on my 18 years of teaching, I realize I’ve never felt more restless than I do right now. I feel like I’m on the lower steps of a staircase that climbs toward greater opportunities to do what I’m most passionate about—advocating for change that helps teachers serve their students.

I‘m anxious about climbing higher on that staircase, however, because the steps in front of me are barely visible and I can’t see the top. In order to reach the top, I must leave behind what feels comfortable and safe.

Throughout my career, I’ve been blessed to have amazing mentors who have encouraged me to learn about the challenges facing America’s teachers and cultivate my advocacy skills. My training and experiences have led me to a point where there are multiple leadership opportunities to consider. The question is: am I ready to keep climbing the staircase?

It’s time for me to take bold steps in leading my profession. After all, look at what I’m armed with:

  • 18 years of experience and stories from my classroom
  • the voices of my colleagues, who long to be treated with respect and given autonomy to use their talents and creativity to reach students
  • the voices of my students, who want to succeed but whose love of learning has been tarnished by over-testing
  • the support of my association, which is dedicated to educating policymakers and the public about the complexities of teaching
  • a fierce passion and an unwavering commitment to my profession and students

In the last several years, I’ve taken on a lot of work in the hopes of advocating for my students, colleagues, and profession. I’ve built relationships with state and local legislators, spoke at county hearings, represented my building before advisory councils and education associations, and mentored new and pre-service teachers. All of these opportunities have been amazing experiences to give back to my profession

But somehow it still feels like I’m not doing enough. Here are a few ways I want to exercise my leadership in the next few years:

  • help create legislation that establishes teacher autonomy that allows teachers to truly improve student achievement
  • lead an effort to redesign my school system’s teacher evaluation program by streamlining it and providing meaningful feedback to teachers
  • research Peer Assistance and Review models and help establish feedback and recognition systems that truly elevate teachers and celebrate their successes

Above all, I want to ensure that my colleagues’ voices are heard in my school, community, and at the state and national levels. While I make constant use of social media, I feel the need to address a larger audience and contribute to the national dialogue about education. Recently, my colleagues encouraged me to run for a position in my national association. In the past, I didn’t feel ready for this kind of opportunity. But now I see it as a step toward serving my students and colleagues fully.

I’ve come to realize that the staircase of leadership doesn’t go straight up—it’s a moving path that shifts. (Think Hogwarts stairways.) I don’t know what I’ll find with each step, but I can hear my inner voice whisper: “Have faith, trust in yourself, and your dedication and hard work will come to fruition.”  

So I take a deep breath and climb confidently upward, hoping that other leaders will join me in my journey. Are you ready to take the next steps to find the inner leader in you?

Read more about Precious here. Or connect with her here in the Collaboratory.

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