Tuesday, July 21, 2015

3 Types of Teachers, Which Do You Aspire To Be?

In preparation for the new school year and new principals in which to inflict my leadership coaching upon, I recently attended a leadership conference.  Author Todd Whitaker was one of the keynote speakers.  

About 3 years ago I became fascinated with one of his books: Shifting The Monkey 
(The Art of Protecting Good People From Liars, Criers, and Other Slackers).  I paraphrased and shared the information from the book with everyone I know who holds any type of leadership position.  I also lent the book to my brother and haven't seen it since.   So I missed the opportunity to have Todd sign the book, I did come away with this picture of Todd, along with myself and a colleague:

In the inspiring message that he delivered at the conference, my biggest take away was the way he ranked the types of teachers he encountered in the buildings in which he lead. As I listened, I began to relate to his words:

Teachers tend to fall into one of 3 roles:

Even without the explanation and exercise that would follow, I began to sift my colleagues into the 3 types of teachers in my head.  And you are probably doing the same.   But, before you get too far let me offer some of his explanations about each role.

Superstar: These are the kinds of teachers every parent would want for their child.   They are the type of teachers every principal wants to lead.  They are the most dedicated, hardest working, passionate, professional teachers you will encounter in your lifetime.  The vision of these teachers reaches beyond themselves.  It is broad, long range and uses the lens of others to see what needs to be done to improve. They are not afraid to change, because they understand that change is the only way to move forward. They want what is best not only for the children in their own classroom, but what is best for all learners.  They have the drive to make positive change happen.  

Backbones:  The bulk of the teachers you encounter are backbones.  They are willing to try new things.  They take pride in doing their job and doing it "right".  They do what they are told, and they want to make themselves and their students look good.  Their vision is usually limited to their own classroom and they become overwhelmed when asked to work for things that don't affect them (or their own students) directly.  Their drive for change comes from acceptance, and knowing that they did what they were asked to do.  

Mediocre:  The mediocre teacher. . . well you may have encountered this one from time to time.   If you think about the bell curve, there are probably as many of these as there are superstars.  Mediocres are difficult, they provide a warm adult body in the classroom. They may try something new, but not with any expectation or determination.  They are usually looking for reasons why it won't work (and someone to blame when it doesn't).  They refer to themselves as burned out (but one may question if they were ever on fire to begin with!) When greeted with 'How are you today?' they usually offer a negative response.  They don't have much motivation and their vision rarely goes beyond themselves.  

The rest of the keynote focused on leading these 3 types of teachers and I will leave the details of this to Todd.  He has several books on the subject. including School Culture Rewired, and What Great Principals Do Differently.  

But the focus of my post is to help you recognize which of the 3 types of teachers you are (or want to be).  If you are a new teacher just entering the profession, this information should be something for you to reflect upon.  If you are a seasoned teacher who would like to renew your role, you may want to reflect also. 

Here are 3 questions to ponder:
1. When you think of the upcoming school year, where is your focus? (yourself? your class? every stakeholder in your school?)
2. When you discuss your job with others, what is your tone?
3. Why are you a teacher?  

The last question leads into my next post - Start With Why.   (You can prime yourself by watching this video by Simon Sinek)

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