For the past 18 years, I have worked in the St. Louis Public Schools. During that time, there have been 5 social studies curriculum facilitators/specialists. I am the 6th one during that time. Taking on this role, is not one in which I would classify as a dream position. Nobody I have ever met in education aspires to be the curriculum specialist for the district. My guess is that the position really does not have any real “power,” it is a 12-month position, and does not pay much more than being in the classroom. Please hear me out when I say that the previously mentioned list is not a litany of complaints. Those are just the facts. What this job does offer is influence.
Influence is often overlooked by those in leadership roles. A positive influence is able to generate a culture which is open to experimentation in methodology. A negative influence can cloud the culture of an organization or group of teachers to merely thrive on the concept of survival. I for one, never thrived under threat. If anything, the development of deep interpersonal relationships with students and colleagues afforded me the opportunity to grow as a professional. When teachers sit alone in isolation, or commiserate in negativity, there can be no growth.
Having the opportunity to lead professional development allows teachers the ability to develop networks with other teachers to seek out improvement. Unfortunately, many teachers are fearful of the judgement of their peers. While not unfounded, how sad is it that adults who tell children to not be bullies and treat everyone with respect, become the very thing they advocate against? The reluctance to improve. The familiarity of the known. These are the zones of comfort teachers need to break out of.
Christopher Emdin in his book, “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education,” said the following: ” The kind of teacher you will become is directly related to the kind of teachers you associate with. Teaching is a profession where misery does more than just love company–it recruits, seduces, and romances it. Avoid people who are unhappy and disgruntled about the possibilities for transforming education. They are the enemy of the spirit of the teacher.” This statement is everything. We are a huge influence not only on the students, but also on where we go together as colleagues in this journey called education. We control what happens in our classrooms in many ways, but we also need to control who we surround ourselves with.
Build a positive network of support. Reach out to people who will build you up instead of tearing down others. Be the person who influences positive energy and attention into the work of your school.