I heavily edited this blog post before I scheduled it for publication. The initial draft was raw, emotional, personal, and had the unintentional potential to reflect badly on some people and some organizations. Writing can be cathartic and the process can lead to learning. Since shared learning is one of the purposes of this blog, I chose to rewrite, edit, and share.
Recently, I applied for a central position in my school board. This was the third time that I've attempted to earn a spot doing this specific job. My (former) principal was absolutely wonderful. She helped prepare me more thoroughly than I ever had before. She ran through mock interviews with me, proof-read my resume, reviewed the job qualifications ... the results of my application are by no means a reflection of her efforts.
As you might guess, I did not get the job.
Naturally, I was a bit disappointed and upset. "What's wrong with me?" I asked myself. "Don't I have what it takes?" I felt like I had let down all the people who had encouraged me to apply.
I discreetly let my friends know via email and Twitter the results of the interview. As I spread the news, I re-read a Twitter exchange between me and @thenerdyteacher, otherwise known as Nicholas Provenzano. Our discussion began with this blog post from Rick Hess' blog, Straight Up. He had a guest writer, Florida teacher Zak Champagne, talk about "opportunities to grow" for educators that often lead to removing great instructors from the classroom. He bemoans that practice as a loss to students. Nicholas and I talked a little bit about Zak's point. I pointed out that in my board, we have demonstration classrooms, where other teachers can visit experienced colleagues, to watch them in action with real students. We also have funds allocated for new teachers to spend a day with another teacher with a similar job description, so they can job shadow them, pepper them with questions, and gain a mentor that will help them with their first years teaching. Nick liked the ideas. We cc'd Arne Duncan in our discussion, who turns out to be the U.S. Secretary of Education. Wouldn't it be amazing if this sort of professional learning model spread?
It took a couple of days to sink in, but eventually I realized that I don't necessarily need a special title bestowed on me by my employer to make me an "educational leader". I do it when I engage in voluntary conversations with fellow teachers across the continent or offer to help a new teacher-librarian with some kindergarten class lessons on using the library. I do it when I support participants at Library Camp OTF or present at conferences and bring back the information I learn to share with my PLC. Teachers can still lead while working "in the trenches", making the theoretical practical by doing it in their schools with their students. Don't get me wrong - I would still love the chance to assist my fellow school librarians system-wide as part of my day-to-day duties rather than voluntarily after school and online - but I am blessed to have a job that I love, with supportive administration, enthusiastic students, committed staff, and plenty of "leadership opportunities" in and beyond my school.