Points of perception [race, leadership, growth]

Jose

I have three quick points I wanted to make with you and, for some reason, they all center on the idea of perception.

Thanks for highlighting Leonard Cooper’s recent win on Teen Jeopardy. I think one reason that Leonard was a come from behind hero was that our perceptions of young black males is that they should not be successful, and yet Cooper was. This is heartbreaking but I think it may be even more true when individuals like Leonard embody some of our biases but not others. For example his Afro, a retro shout out to the natural styles of the 1960s, clashes in some minds with the geeked out nerd look of most male Jeopardy contestants.  It was surprising to some, not necessarily to my urban high school teacher colleagues but, to most Jeopardy fans maybe.

I recently received a copy of the the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Challenges for School Leadership. This 29th annual survey of teachers never fails to surprise me, especially when I dig into the details. Check out these two points.

Nearly all principals (98%) rate the teachers in their school as doing an excellent or pretty good job.

Most teachers (69%) say they are not at all interested in becoming a principal.

These two findings in the survey fly in the face of perceptions that teachers and principals maintain an oppositional relationship. It also counteracts the prevailing track of development that encourages teachers to become principals to make a “bigger impact” (I’m guilty).

I earned my doctorate in Educational Leadership. I went through the program acing my courses and being fully aware that to be a leader you didn’t have to be a principal. What I and others have constantly been told is that teacher leadership is not educational leadership. I have wondered why but, the MetLife survey has clarified my thinking. The third point is that in the MetLife Survey, more than half of teachers say they are in formal leadership roles, and that they are interested in taking on part time teaching/hybrid leadership positions.

Teacher leadership is educational leadership, it is just a matter of perception.

When we stop seeing our own reflections and start seeing things as they are we will make more progress in education quicker, whether it is with principals, or students like Leonard Cooper. Why has it taken this long for a kid like Leonard to win? Why are principals and teachers on the opposite ends of the negtiation table so often? Why don’t teachers have differentiated pathways for professional growth?

I am really hoping that the CTQ Collaboratory will help us answer these types of questions.