Teacher Voice, Professional Identity, and Being a Warrior

The other day we had a conversation in our profession seminar about what it means to be a leader, but I feel like the conversation could have gone on through the entire session…we could have talked more about teachers as leaders. What does that look like? What do teachers as leaders do? Sound like? And how can we as preservice teachers prepare for this leadership?

Through this program, we have been introduced to so many voices who have authority on education and work hard to be leaders in the field. And getting to read and hear all of these voices, I’m noticing the ways they make themselves heard (most notably, via Twitter and the blogosphere) and how they have found a niche within education, and can be recognized as really knowing that niche inside, out and having valuable opinions and insights.

I am constantly thinking about how I want to use my teacher voice, what niche I want to find for myself, how I want those things to be a part of my professional identity. In my now almost constant browsing of teacher-leaders via Twitter (there are so many! They say amazing things!) I ran across this piece by Lori Nazareno about being a warrior within education. It’s about not being aggressive, but a true leader in a way that is productive:

“We can re-create what it means to be educated in the US. We can reinvent the ways in which schools and schooling are done. And we can imaginer a profession that is respected and empowering. We don’t, however, have to do it by responding to current aggression with additional aggression. We can stand in contrast to what is and create a new way.”

Sometimes we think of leadership as being the first into the charge (thanks, Craig!), but what if it’s about creating productive dialogue, being a connector of people, ideas, and resources?

This, for me, is a heavy topic for me to blog about because it weighs on my mind heavily. I want to be an excellent educator, and I know this means developing (and always developing) a professional identity and teacher voice. It also means being a warrior. At a later time, when I have more time (when?!), I know I want to get deeper into this topic, incorporate the thoughts and ideas of teacher-leader-warriors I admire into my own thoughts, and write about the niches I see within education, and where I feel my voice is needed.

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5 Comments

  1. Love this post, “Schooled”. Love the thinking about the many ways to lead, about thinking about leading as part of a rich network, about finding a niche rather than staring up into the high high stack of all that needs to be taken on.

    Are there some “niches” to which you’re feeling drawn?

  2. Also love this post! I agree with so much of what you’ve said here. In this process of becoming a teacher, it’s so much about what we’re learning from educators and their experiences, and from seeing what works and what doesn’t work. Being a leader as an educator can take on many forms, and I’m so glad that you’re opening up this idea of finding our own niche in our profession. While there is a lot of preparation in becoming a teacher surrounding learning how to teach our future students, I think a lot of times things such as forming our own professional identity and voice aren’t focused on. Keeping this in our minds is so important, thanks for sharing your thoughts! I would love to hear your answer to the question in the comment above as well!

  3. My father-in-law who is an Army veteran and from a family with a long military history also says the commanders are actually the last who want to go to war, because it is their soldiers that might get killed. Maybe our society as a whole needs to rethink our concept of warrior into one that is more of a well educated voice who uses diplomacy and evidence to make change happen. Your post brought to mind something a camp counselor wrote home to my parents when I was 10 that I have never forgotten. It was something like “your daughter is a quiet leader. She is like a rope that all of her cabin mates like to hang on to and that leads them to places they need to go.” Yes, I am bragging about myself, but I remember that compliment made me realize I was and could be a leader without being the loudest or even by being completely conscious of it. It was more the idea of leading by example and being the type of person that people would want to follow on their own accord. I think if we, as teachers, can teach and encourage and publicly praise more subtle types of leadership, more voices will be heard, and the world will be a better place. Warriors come in all shapes and sizes and varying degrees of volume, including school teachers!

  4. I think one aspect of the art of leadership is knowing when to use aggressive leadership or passive leadership. There are so many factors that go into making leadership decisions and a lot of those decisions have a lot to do with those being led and little to do with the leader him/herself. I think part of the essence of being a teacher-leader is knowing when to use what method because, as teachers, we are expected to lead a lot more than we are given credit for. We lead our students, sure, but we also lead parents, we advise and sometimes lead administrators (don’t tell them!), and that is all besides our position as potential leaders within the professional community of educators and as voices and stakeholders in the political arena of education. All of these situations require a different type of leadership. Sometimes a passive leadership style is perfect, and sometimes an aggressive leadership style is the only way to be heard, indeed sometimes the only way to competently advocate for those who count on you to stand up for them. Anyway, my main point here is that we are expected to develop as leaders in a variety of environments, and the leadership styles that are likely to be successful in each are unlikely to be exactly the same.
    Finally, I am a big advocate of niche leadership as you proposed. While it is not necessary to be an expert before you become a leader, it is a model I prefer since leaders should be able to intelligently discuss and debate issues and the only way to do that is to know them well.
    Thanks!

  5. Pingback: Getting Schooled | Am I a Blogger Yet?

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