I Need a Niche

First, I want to thank the people who took the time to comment on my last blog and shared their thoughts and ideas. They extended my thinking about what I wrote of last week, and I appreciated the push-back on my thoughts.

Mostly I’ve been considering what niche within education I see myself being comfortable in. And as I wrote that sentence, I realized “comfortable” is not what I really mean. What I really mean is what niche do I care most about? What niche excites me, pushes me to speak up or further ignites my passion for teaching and learning? And what niche would benefit from my voice? I don’t want to add to a din of voices; I want to complement, challenge, modify, change existing leaders and the leaders that would come after me. I think if I am to be of value to any smaller community within the profession, then I need to be passionate as well as knowledgable. And while I am not lacking in the passion, I am still learning about all of the different forums that exist and the kinds of arguments being made. What I know about the niches of education is a mile wide but only an inch deep. It will only be as a teacher that I can really speak with any authority. But as Jose Vilson advises us to “not kiss rings,” I am learning to be more confident in what I do know and have experienced at this point.

I’m finding out that it angers me when outsiders don’t appreciate the thoughtfulness and intent that goes (or should go) into instruction. It’s dynamic, but a lot of people are so stuck on their own negative experiences of worksheets and so-called “busy work” assigned by their teachers that they haven’t stopped to examine the ways teaching has changed and is constantly changing. It is dynamic, not static. And I am continually excited by the challenges presented by teaching diverse learners, the ways teachers think of and share or modify curriculum to reflect their students while pushing them (both the teacher and students) to new heights. So I think that is where my interests lie…in the area of teacher advocacy where it meets innovative and effective pedagogy.

YIKES. But in a good way.

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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.