The teachers’ teacher [Leadership week 2011]

John,

I must say I appreciated your views on National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in a way that only a non-NBCT can. You brought out an important aspect of finding the appropriate leader for such a prestigious organization: finding the right archetype. Much of the criticisms you laid out, particularly where you call out the leadership for their bureaucratic style, point to the need to create different visions for leadership.

Missing in the dialogue to improve schools is this aspect of who evaluates teachers. People discussed items like common rubrics to use as a lens to limit the biases these evaluators come in with when looking at teaching in the classroom. Doesn’t that beg the question: shouldn’t the person who evaluates the teacher in the classroom have ultimately been an educator themselves? By that, I mean that they could have been a teacher, a principal, an instructional coach, or any level of academic savant in the building, and done so at a competent level.

(Not ironically, “competent” tends to be judged best by the very people who work right next to each other and those learning from those people).

Your choice of Renee Moore speaks volumes of what you believe about the profession. Yes, her voice demonstrates the awesome possibilities of having someone who understands the inner workings of teaching from a policy standpoint that’s ripe with depth about all types of children, not just the ones that stand to benefit from our current policy. She amalgamates the best from the past, present, and future of education, certainly. What we most appreciate about Renee is that she is a teacher’s teacher. I’ve never had a chance to traverse the Mississippi Delta, but I’ll put all my money on the fact that people observe her teaching as the barometer for effective teaching.

Yet, the power of people like her isn’t just in their teaching; it’s in their ability to translate that to those that don’t understand teaching on different levels. Yes, the first step to getting to this point is by elevating the teacher voice to where it’s less like a teachers’ lounge and more like a teachers’ roundtable, with teachers like Renee at the fore. In the comments, I noticed that Renee declined the offer for head of NBPTS, but the prototype makes sense: a person who can talk about the heights of good teaching and can translate that to a captive audience of non-educators and simultaneously has done that which they’ve spoken about to the masses.

While we try and find another one of her [we won’t], the future has to push us in a direction where we elevate the profession from within our ranks. We have to lead the charge on these pieces, and if it means we develop the standards internally, then that’s what we’re doing. If it means setting up ways for all these expert teachers to run up to the lead to 2030, then that’s what we’re doing. We can even model this right in our schools, where we’re visiting each others’ classroom not to criticize, but to critique and offer questions.

Thus, when these leaders ascend into positions where they naturally bring forth into positions where they’re not just thinking of teaching in one classroom, but in multiple classrooms. I believe that was the principle, rather principal, premise of having a principal, or any leader really.

p.s. – This was a belated posting for Leadership Day 2011 hosted by Scott McLeod.