This Untraveled Road: The Teacher Leaders of Tomorrow

It is that time again.  Teachers nationwide are going back to school.  Cue the obligatory Facebook comments.

Let’s be honest, the beginning of the year is equally exciting and terrifying.  The staggering potential that exists is countered by an equally stunning potential for failure.  And yes, while the future is always uncertain at the beginning of the year, I find this year to be a source of incredible inspiration.  We have so many new teachers and young teachers.  This could be overwhelming, but I look at it differently.  I see it as a chance to create the next wave of teacher leaders.  I see a future where someone I mentor no longer needs me.  In turn, they help the next person who needs them.  To demonstrate how inspired I am, I would like to pull lyrics from my summer anthem “Untraveled Road” by Thousand Foot Krutch.

We Can Create Our Reality

Hold on for a second, if words can be weapons
Then what I say can effect it, they’re not just words on a record
And I can choose to respect it.

In my specific circumstance, I am joining the staff of a brand new school.  Mostly new staff.  New administration.  New routines, new systems, new ideologies.  New egos, new interpersonal dynamics, new stressors.  And to add on to all of these potential stumbling blocks, the eyes of the district, media, and news are on us.  To this I say simply this:

What an opportunity.  

I know this for a fact.  If words can be weapons, then what we say can effect great change. As educators, our greatest opportunity is to effect some positive change every day.  Our words are weapons, and if we respect that power, what amazing things can happen.  Every single teacher has the chance to move students.  Talk about teacher leadership!  Every class every day and for every student.  If every single person has the chance to create the world they want to see, if we give our actions and words respect and power, great things are bound to happen.

The challenge is creating that unified vision.  Yet, to emphasize the point again, teachers who step up and live the message and the dream can create positive leadership by being an example to those who are struggling.  This is evident in two axioms I live my life by:

  1. Perception is reality
  2. The reality you put into the universe comes back as truth

The next wave of leaders can create positive school experiences through simply believing and walking the walk.  As any year begins, morale can be a struggle.  It doesn’t have to be. Among everything else that needs to be done at the beginning of the year, this is a “simple” step to achieve great things early on.

Vision Is Not Enough

‘Cause one voice is enough to make sleeping giants wake up,
To make armies put their hands up and watch whole nations stand up
It’s one belief, one spark, one faith…

It is not enough to simply say out loud what you want to happen, you got to make it happen!  For people outside of the teaching profession, this seems like an obvious sentiment.  Outside education, when protocols are set, it is a reasonable expectation that the protocols will be easily followed. In our world, however, this is often easier said than done.  When my students show up tomorrow, some will be carrying such baggage that school will be the place they either fear or love, despise or need.  I can put my vision out there, and that reality will start to form with my word, but the classroom can be a war.  As was said to me, teachers can lose a battle from this day to that, but they cannot lose the war. Failure is not an option.

If I, as a general on the front lines of the future, use my voice and actions to inspire my fellow educators, our united front may buckle, but we will never break.  As a teacher leader, I need my trusted comrades to stand strong with me.  If I, and other positive forces, can make the silent educational giants stand up, our nation (our school), will stand up.  We have to be of one faith.  My role is not just teacher, but also support.  I need to be a leader who makes others leaders.  Eventually, my job can become easier.  My leadership, and the leadership around me, is a force multiplier; it is an exponential growth of expertise, pedagogy, and leadership.  I believe wholeheartedly that the future of education rests in the grassroots movement.  My local front line is lineally connected to the front lines in the policy world.  If leaders are grown, they create an unstoppable army. More importantly, if leaders are grown, the kids will be bettered.

The Future Is Bright

Then with what we have we can own it, we’ll just plant the seed and keep growin’ it…We only got one shot, so let’s make it count…Before we depart, let’s leave a mark ‘cause light shines brighter in the dark…We walk, where no one wants to go, on this untraveled road.

I will leave with this.  My optimism knows no bounds this year.  Not just for my school, but for the future of my district.  I am surrounded by so many people who can go out in the future and create greatness.  I, along with those who support me, have a huge task; we need to plant the seeds of the educational future.  And yes, in some ways we only have one shot.  But if this chance is cultivated, if we make it count, the future is a place of incredible brightness.  Like the phoenix, my school, like so many others, starts its emergence from the ashes this year.  I am so excited to be part of this.  I am so excited to learn from others, to help others grow, and watch our kids make incredible leaps forward.

Yes, the educational world is dark in so many ways. There is a lot of discord out there.  But when a light shines in the dark, it is all the brighter.  Beyond all else, I know this:

We, all of us in education, walk where no one wants to go.

The future is an uncertain, untraveled road.  But I walk it boldly and confidently knowing that those who surround me have a chance to engage in amazing work for themselves, our school, and as always, our students.  I cannot wait to share the incredible stories that come from the truly amazing people who surround me.

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