One thing I learned from participating in the TELL Collab in Austin, Texas, last summer is that I have a voice.
I had been teaching almost 10 years, had participated in weekly Twitter chats, and had been a department chair, but being able to participate in the TELL Collab and freely share with other like-minded teachers helped me realize that I had a voice and valid opinions to share with other teachers. In fact, one of the main ground rules for the TELL Collab was that there were no attendees; everyone was expected to participate. And participation was key as we got in to our sessions, asked some hard questions, and gave back some hard answers. There were several hot seat sessions with teachers, and I was so glad I got to sit in on Amy Lenord‘s hot seat session not only because she’s someone I admire, but because she really speaks from the heart. Amy shared how she organized her website for students and colleagues, but what was the most impactful was that she was a teacher who wanted to share what she’d learned with others. That was the key of the whole Collab: share.
Sharing was a key part of my experience over those two days at the Collab because not only did I glean so much from others, but they asked me questions about how I taught and were genuinely interested. That hadn’t been something I had experienced much before, since normally I had been the one asking questions about how others worked in their classes, yet the teachers at the Collab built an environment based on collaborating with others, which really helped me find my voice as a teacher and a leader. We were all sharing and learning together, and I’ve been able to link up with some of these wonderful teachers on Twitter, so we keep these conversations going.
Jaime Basham recently wrote about finding her Dream Team in her department as she found those folks who would really build into her. It is important for all of us teachers to recognize, as well, that no matter how long we have been teaching, we have a voice. So often our practice has been focused on asking questions from more veteran teachers in order to glean their wisdom, yet I believe it is just as important for veteran teachers to listen to those with less experience in order to gain a fresh perspective on helping students along the path to proficiency.
One way I could encourage teachers to find their voice would be to attend a TELL Collab (Nashville in April or Austin in June)! This is a great way to share your successes and struggles with teachers who not only want to grow, but will listen to each other, ask the hard questions, and help provide some solutions to our greatest challenges. Another way I could encourage teachers is to find that Dream Team, like Jaime mentioned, whether that be in a department, a district, a state or regional organization, or even on Twitter. By the way, #langchat is one of the most profound teacher communities with plenty of people who will listen and want to learn.
As I progress in my teaching career, I have had some fantastic teachers speak into my journey, and for that, I’m immensely grateful. They have also taught me, though, that I have a voice to help others learn what I’ve learned.