Leading other teachers is a challenge

Guest blog by a middle school language arts teacher

Our Common Core workdays typically turn into gripe sessions.  The assembled Language Arts teachers, myself included, complain about students, other teachers, and our administrators (of course).  As the reluctant “leader” of these sessions, I have tried half-heartedly and unsuccessfully to reign in the negativity.  These workdays were supposed to be an opportunity for teachers to learn about and prepare for the shift to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

I assumed the tone of our meetings was like that of other groups, but I was made aware of how bad ours had gotten during a post-observation conference with my principal. She asked how the Common Core meetings were going and I replied that I thought they were going fairly well.  She told me one teacher had been so offended during the most recent meeting that she did not want to attend any more CCSS sessions. I was shocked.

I appreciated the principal’s understanding and courage.  Telling me that another teacher expressed such strong concerns was not easy or comfortable for her.  She risked a confrontational situation.  She also demonstrated understanding.  Her intent was not to berate or embarrass me.  More than anything she expressed her understanding that I was in a difficult situation.  Being a teacher-leader is not easy for anyone and being one of the least experienced teachers in the department made it even more difficult.  She assured me that I was not the one who was offensive, and she maintained the confidence of the concerned teacher.  By discussing the situation with me I was able to reflect deeper on my leadership and the quality of our sessions.

I can’t say that recent sessions have been perfect, but they are improved.  Teachers now evaluate the sessions, which has provided valuable feedback.  Because negativity naturally emerged from my laissez faire approach, I’ve become more direct in conducting the sessions. I interject when I see that the conversation is turning negative. I’m still learning how to be a teacher-leader.  In many ways, leading teachers is even more challenging than leading sixth graders.


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