Thursday, December 5, 2013

Teacher Leadership Challenge | December 6, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 5.01.03 PMThis is a multipart series of posts intended to help teachers grow their leadership practice and ignite conversations about education online and in person. The goal of a teacher leader is to improve the learning of all students through their efforts, collaboration, and influence. The 2014 Teacher Leadership Challenge is a weekly installment activity that poses a prompt on an educational topic or issue. Your challenge is to respond within one week to the prompt via a post you publish to your blog. Responses to the prompt that you publish to your own blog should be around 500 words or less. The aim is to get more teachers thinking globally about their classroom practice and their own connection to the wider education community. You can subscribe to this blog to get the weekly challenge sent automatically by email.

You can share your post to Twitter using #TLC2014 and spark conversation with educators. In addition to posting on your own blog, you can elect to include your post in the weekly collection showcase blog. To do this, simply email your completed response post to the showcase, at Make sure that you include the title of your post with the week of the prompt for proper tagging (e.g., "My Post Title | September 6, 2013") in the subject line (without "re:") of your email, and the full post laid out in paragraphs in the body of the email. Posts are automatically published from sending the email. You can embed images and URLs into the body of your email, and the post will publish while maintaining your formatting and layout. Check out others' responses in the response collection or on Google+ each week, leave them your comments, and get the conversation rolling ahead for teacher leadership.

This week, the #TLC2014 is back from Thanksgiving hiatus. We all need to focus on loved ones and gratitude during this holiday season, and (unlike Wal-Mart) this blogging challenge is not going to stand in the way of holiday time with family. So, we are back this week starting up the December installments of the Teacher Leadership Challenge.

This Week's Challenge:

What makes for an outstanding teacher?

NME BanquetToday, I am at the Network of Michigan Educators (NME) annual conference in Lansing, MI. This organization is a professional association made up of Michigan's top educators recognized with either a state-level or national-level awards. The Network Mission is to improve teaching and learning by connecting recognized educators as a resource to inform practice, research, and policy. It is an outstanding group of some of the most dedicated and accomplished teachers in the entire state. There are presidential award winners, national Milken educators, state teachers of the year, National Board Certified Teachers, and teachers of promise (exemplary pre-service teachers.) It is the Justice League of teaching in the state of Michigan. All of these educators are passionate about professional learning, engaging students, using best-practice methods, and increasing student achievement through collaboration.

It is my first year as a member of the NME, since I won the Michigan Teacher of the Year award in May. What an honor it is to be with such a talented group of teachers. All the teachers have a variety of levels of experience, come from all areas of the state, and work throughout K-12 education. There is very little that could be as inspiring as being around an all-star team of professionals in your field to converse and learn together. 

Spending time with such talent challenges you to be the best teacher you can be. You start to become more reflective about your classroom practice and look for your inspiration in others' practice. All of this got me thinking about what makes for exceptional educators like this group contains. There are some similarities between all the teachers in this group, and likely all the great teachers out there, but that begged the question for me: what makes for an outstanding teacher?

Is it the level of dedication? Is it their passion for a subject area? Does creativity in lessons, projects, or technology use sum it up? When you think of outstanding teachers you know, yourself even, what comes to mind? Is it the way a teacher inspires students, challenges them to reach their potential, or provides them a space to innovate? What would be the features you look for in a teacher to distinguish them from others in the field? How could you identify an outstanding teacher? Does being outstanding at teaching look the same at every grade level and in each subject area? Are there common threads of excellence that weave through all classroom teachers who are great that make them outstanding?