Three Back to School Resolutions For Teacher Leaders

This year my “classroom” is housed on my computer and in my car trunk. But the anticipatory back to school butterflies remain nonetheless. 

To prepare for this school year, instead of co-creating a class contract with students, I’m sharing three back to school resolutions for teacher leaders.

It’s that time of year again — at certain hours fall is starting to feel just a few degrees away. Time to load up new backpacks with “bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils.” (And time to sanitize keyboards in 1:1 classrooms).

It’s time to start a new school year.

I observed the first day of school this year by looking through windows and down hallways of other teachers’ classrooms. My own out-of-pocket supplies and Young Adult library is gathering dust in a corner of my basement.

This year, instead of awkward adolescents, I’m facilitating a cohort of adults. Twenty K-12 teachers from across content areas and learning communities are voluntarily piloting Aurora Public School’s first cohort of the Teacher Leadership Academy. Over the course of this school year, each teacher will create an individual leadership plan, develop a learning lab classroom where they deprivatize their practice through videotaping lessons and hosting visitors virtually and in real time, and evolve into a community of practice through blended learning experiences.

So, my “classroom” is housed on my computer and in my car trunk. But the anticipatory back to school butterflies remain nonetheless.

To prepare for this school year, instead of co-creating a class contract with students, I’m sharing three back to school resolutions:

  • Be as vulnerable as possible. One of my favorite summer professional reads was Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. An extension of the author’s TED Talk, the book is a balance of research and storytelling that supports a leadership manifesto grounded in embracing vulnerability. I found vulnerability to be one of the most powerful teaching and learning tools in the classroom, and I hope to model vulnerability with teacher leaders who are in various phases of launching their own leadership journeys. Through taking risks in my practice, asking probing questions, and reflecting publicly and often, I will practice embracing vulnerability and affirm that each teacher leader is exactly where he or she is supposed to be.

  • Talk Less, Listen More. To truly support others in going public with their practice, I want to hone my coaching and active listening skills and commit to speaking less and listening more. In the classroom I had to vigilantly monitor my wait time with students and learn to push past an awkward silence to honor critical thinking and a range of processing speeds. Similarly, I know I will need to lean in and listen deeply in order to surface fears, uncover strengths, and support critical reflection for others. Going public with our practice requires us to talk out loud about why we do what we do. Being able to verbalize my beliefs and core values was a professional gift that coaches and mentor gave to me, and an experience I want to pay forward. I plan to metacognitively monitor my own listening behaviors by using Elena Aguilar’s “Listening To Your Own Listening” coaching tool.

  • Document the journey. While I want to continue to blog and write more regularly this school year, instead of sharing insights from my own classroom, I hope to document other teacher leaders’ stories, strengths, struggles, and nagging questions (with their permission of course!) Through lifting up teacher leaders’ aha’s and what ifs others will be inspired and spurred to action. Documenting a variety of teacher leadership stories will inform future cohorts and refine the experience, help hold me accountable to my listening resolution, and serve as a tangible artifact for the participants themselves.

What are your back to school resolutions? Write them down, share them with a colleague or your students, and revisit them as often as needed to revive that freshly sharpened pencil bouquet feeling that is the promise of a new school year.

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  • Grace

    Myriad

    What a joy to read your blog.  It reminded me of how connected we can be through our work, without even knowing each other.  I too work with teachers, and Brene is a go to for me.  I also recently discovered Elena Aguilar, and return to her guidance regularly. 

    This year I resolve to:

    • laugh more
    • trust the process more when it gets tough
    • foster more connection

    Thank you for your inspiring blog!

    • JessicaCuthbertson

      Edu-Connections

      Thank YOU, Grace, for reading and for sharing your own back to school resolutions :). I LOVE number 1 — I think we should ALL resolve to laugh more and make sure we are stepping back and soaking in the joy in our profession regularly :).

      It IS amazing how connected educators can be in the world of social media and how those connections can really be lifted to the surface based on what our current work, professional reading or learning experiences are — Brene and Elena both have new books coming out within the next several months so here’s to future connections through our mutual inspirations! 🙂 

  • SandyMerz

    Old things with fresh eyes

    It’s funny, since getting invovled in teacher leadership, I’ve been less mindful of my classroom teaching. I was engaged, of course, with teaching, but most my thinking was about leadership and balancing everything. Now that I know and am familiar with the ebbs and flows of the leadership calendar, I find myself looking at my day to day teaching with fresh eyes and feeling like I did early in my career when I was finally getting confident and creative. It really is like returning where you started and knowing the place for the first time – as TS Elliot said. 

    • JessicaCuthbertson

      Interesting…

      Balancing is challenging when juggling teacher leadership and day-to-day teaching responsibilities (though I still believe hybrid roles and teacherpreneurism is THE professional sweet spot! 🙂 I love the “freshness” of a new school year and wish you a wonderful year of teaching and learning!

  • WendiPillars

    Congratulations!
    Congratulations, JC, on your new role. Although you’ve been mentoring and guiding teacher leaders “informally” since I’ve known you, I know you’ve probably been preparing yourself in many new ways to do so formally.I share your love of chunking things down into more digestable soundbytes, and the idea of 3 new school year resolutions is spot on. So, here are mine:

    1. Elevate others and find ways to catalyze success for others
    2. Be patient (yes, with the process, as Grace mentioned)
    3. Listen more and “more better” (mo’ better)

    Thank you for this little nudge in thinking.

    • JessicaCuthbertson

      Love!

      Wendi I love your 3 #BackToSchool resolutions – thanks for sharing! How will you know/capture when you are elevating others and finding ways to catalyze success? I want to do this too and am thinking about what this could look like and how I’ll know I’m effectively brokering leadership opps for others :).

  • TriciaEbner

    Keeping the Main Thing, the Main Thing

    I love these resolutions, and they’re universal—they sound very similar to what I’ve had in mind for myself in my classroom this year. 

    We’re wrapping up the fourth week of our year here, but here’s a couple more that have been a focus so far:

    1. Try new things, and be okay with them not working, but don’t stop trying to find ways to reach the goal I want. After all, it’s what I’m asking my students do to, all the time. (Example: I’m trying new apps/web sites this year. )

    2. Find the joy in every day–and share it. 

    I know you’re awesome in your new role–enjoy the journey!

    • JessicaCuthbertson

      Yes to Joy!

      Tricia,

      I love your addition of “finding (and sharing) the joy in every day” — I think this is CRUCIAL. One of the highlights of this school year so far was seeing a list of my district’s core values attached to the strategic plan — JOY made the list! Too often in our efforts to problem solve and revise/refine what’s not working in our classrooms or in the education system at large we focus so much on strategy that we forget about the joy :).

      Hope you have a wonderful, joyful school year!

  • SusanBoyd

    Active Listening

    Dear Jessica,

    I enjoyed the mention of back to school butterflies. TED talks are incredible. I will listen more this year and talk less. Like Tricia,

    I am trying new things and having fun learning everyday!

    Susan

    • JessicaCuthbertson

      Thanks!

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Susan. I think constantly learning (while having fun in the process) is probably the only goal or resolution we truly need in order to ensure a successful year for our students and ourselves…Learn and lead on! 🙂 

  • MaryBethGley

    A Little Inspiration

    I know this was written a few months ago, but as the school year has now reached November, I think it is important to revisit those goals we made for ourselves at the beginning of the year. 
    In particular, I found your reminder to be vunerable an important one. Teachers have the potential to share so much with their colleagues; if only we weren’t afraid to make ourselves open to critique, or in other words, more vunerable. It is hard to let others in, to open the doors for possible judgement. Teachers should not be afraid to share their successes and failures. Not only can we learn from our own missteps, but from the mistakes of others.