As a teacher leader, I would seem to have a lot of things going for me. I have a MA in English from UNI’s TESS (Teaching English in Secondary Schools) program. I am the Department Chair of a sixteen-member English department and serve on a variety of other school committees ranging from leadership to technology to overall school improvement. I have attended (or presented at) a number of state and national education conferences and conventions, in addition to serving on the Executive Board for ICTE. I am extremely committed to my teaching craft and take pride in what I do. All that said, if I’m being completely honest, I’d have a difficult time calling myself a bona fide teacher leader. You see, I’ve got a confession to make. I’m also a hypocrite.
Teacher leaders serve by telling their stories. In this day and age there is no excuse for teacher leaders not to be advocates. It is easier than ever for teachers to open their classrooms to the world through social media, blogs, podcasts, and message boards. As educators, telling our stories isn’t just an option, it’s a nonnegotiable obligation. I’ve heard it said before that “the plural of anecdote is data.” In this world of educational reform, political propaganda, and misinformation, teacher leaders need to be the ones to infuse a data-driven dose of reality. In the War on Teachers, our stories can be Weapons of Mass Instruction.
I wrote these very words in my grad school research paper nearly 18 months ago. I know this takeaway of my research to be as true today as it was in April of 2014. Unfortunately, to this day, there remains one area of my teaching/leading life that has been severely lacking: going public with my teaching.
Being the INFJ that I am, I have often wondered why anyone would be interested in what goes on in my classroom. I’m the type of person who lurks on social media rather than injecting myself into the conversation all of the time. Through recent interactions with members of my ever-growing professional learning network (shout-outs to ICTE and IWP), however, I’m beginning to realize that my voice is both welcome and relevant to the larger conversation. Above all, if I’m truly going to be the teacher leader I think I can be, I need to share my story.
That’s where this blog comes in.
This school year has been one of the most demanding yet rewarding of my teaching career, thanks in large part to Reading for Pleasure, the new 12th grade elective centered on independent, choice reading that I created from the ground up. I’ve never developed an entire curriculum like this before, and it’s certainly come with its growing pains, but I’ve also been inspired and energized by my seniors in ways I hadn’t anticipated. In my heart of hearts, I think I knew that this class would be a success, but it has been exhilarating to see what played out in my mind’s eye come to fruition in a classroom full of actual, warm bodies. I intend to use this blog to tell my story of this virgin voyage of Reading for Pleasure. I hope, that by sharing my experiences and starting a larger conversation, I might be able to create the resource I had been looking for when I was initially planning this course last summer. My students have been so good about sharing their reading testimonials with me throughout these first two months. It’s time I return the favor.
I’ve officially put myself on notice. The hypocrisy ends now. Room 703 is online, and we’re going public. More to come. Soon.
4 thoughts on “On Leading and Reading”
Honest, warm, thoughtful. I can’t wait to read more. Thanks, Austin.
Whoo hoo, Austin! Way to go! Can’t wait to hear more stories of your journey. Love the weapons of mass instruction. #booklove
I love your post and can’t wait to read more of your journey. I once taught a class called “Reading for Enjoyment” for 8th graders. It was my favorite class. Due to budget constraints it disappeared, but I now have a high school class that is designed for independent reading. I love it and I hope the kids do to.
I hashtagged you for my Secondary English Ed students to read #BVUSOE. Worth reading, worth considering. Keep it up!