When I was in college, there were a few of my peers whom I really admired. They always seemed to be comfortable in any social setting. They could talk to anyone, regardless of whether they had met before. Their boisterous personalities exuded confidence, fun, and joy. At that point in my life, I wasn’t familiar with the difference between introverts and extroverts, and I didn’t realize the value that each contributes. I just wished I was more like these confident, exuberant friends.
Fast forward several years, I have embraced my introvert tendencies. I have also noticed that I can have those extroverted qualities that I envied in college. They appear when I’m “in my element” (i.e. around students). I can be boisterous and welcoming, talking to students who know me and those I’ve never met. I can cultivate a classroom full of this kind of exuberance. (Sometimes I even forget to make a space for my introverted students, oops!)
Then there’s the teacher leadership world. Over the past year and a half, I’ve been introduced to teacher leadership, and, at times, I’ve felt like I’m back in college. I’ve watched those leaders who are extroverts. They still exude that confidence and a fun spirit no matter where they are. They are confident and able to talk with leaders from across the world like they are best friends. I’m still an introvert, and outside of my familiar surroundings, I’m incredibly nervous. Initially, my teacher leadership thoughts were summed up by a line from Echosmith, “I wish that I could be like the cool kids.” They seemed to be connected to everything and they seemed to be making a world of difference. I assumed that they were the face of teacher leadership, that I had to look like them to be a teacher leader.
How wrong I was. In this past year and a half, I’ve learned that there are many faces of teacher leadership. There are the uber-connected teacher leaders like MeMe Ratliff (@MeMe3Rat), Missy Calloway (@Calilypso), and Tricia Shelton (@TdiShelton) who work at an exhausting pace–one that I could never hope to emulate. Thre are organizers like Jana Bryant (@JanaBryant14) who bring together groups of teacher leaders to leverage their collective power for change. There are teacher leaders who advocate tirelessly for their passion like Heidi Givens (@heidigasl) does for deaf education. There are teacher leaders who are transforming teaching in their own classroom and leading ripple effects across their schools, districts, and beyond. Tiffany Gruen is a good example of this (@GruenTiff). There are policy advocates like Kip Hottman (@KipHottman). Some teacher leaders see a larger picture and take their leadership to the next level like Brad Clark (@notbradclark) has done with the Hope Street Group.
When I look at this group of teacher leaders (and the many more I’ve left out), I wonder where my place is. I wonder which of these leaders I’m most similar to. What I’ve learned is that there is no one face of teacher leadership and that all of our voices are needed to lead education into the future. Our kids deserve the best, and they’ll only get it when we bring our teaching and leadership skills together to continue moving education forward. So, I’m carving out my own teacher leadership role that aligns with my strengths. Sometimes it’s a “quiet leadership,” and that’s okay.