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Leading From the Classroom: Suggestions for Teacher Leadership

December 17, 2015

Leadership_laneMaster Teacher Guest Blog Series
Part 5: Learning Is Social
Post 3 of 3



Welcome to the final installment of the Master Teacher guest blog series. What an informative and inspiring collection of posts we have published in just a few short months! If you are new to series, please look back at earlier posts from Master Teachers who make their teaching All about the Kids, who use data to Measure Progress, who see opportunity in setback and Fail Forward, and who grow professionally when they Reflect Honestly.

This last part of the series focuses on how Learning Is Social. This is true for students and equally true for teachers. The teaching profession can easily isolate us within the four walls of our classroom, but great teachers recognize the value of collaboration and seek out ways to break through the isolation. Today, Cassandra Joss offers her suggestions for teachers looking to take on more leadership roles, while at the same time remaining in the classroom. Enjoy!

In education, “moving up” the ranks is very different than the most other professions. Teachers go into education to inspire and help children. However, a “promotion” often takes teachers away from the daily, meaningful relationships with students and the actual teaching; the two things I enjoy most about my job. I have known from the beginning of my career that being a principal or working in the administration office is not for me, yet I wanted more out of my job. How was I supposed to fulfill the desire to be a leader in my profession, and still continue to teach at the same time?

In 2013, I received the direction I needed. I was chosen as an NEA BetterLesson Master Teacher. This set me on a path to fulfill the growth and leadership I was looking for. As a Master Teacher, I was able to build relationships with educators from around the country. The people I was meeting had all sorts of great skill sets, experiences, and stories. During my time as a Master Teacher, two things occurred to me. If I wanted leadership opportunities, I was going to have put myself in them, nobody was going to come to my classroom and do it for me. The second realization was that I needed to surround myself with positive, like-minded people.  

I began actively seeking more opportunities to grow as an educator, and contribute to my profession. Working on leadership projects outside of my classroom “fills my bucket”, yet still allows me to enjoy my first love of teaching. Here are a few suggestions for teachers looking to expand their opportunities and grow professionally:

  • When you receive an educational newsletter, read it from top to bottom and look for opportunities that are of interest to you. I learned that these opportunities are very often posted, but not many people read the publication or follow through on making a contact.  
  • When you go to conferences and workshops, walk right up and introduce yourself to the people you admire or find interesting. I have made a lot of inspiring and lasting connections this way.
  • Sign up to present at a conference on a subject area you are strong in. While there, use the opportunity to make professional connections.

Once I began actively seeking out leadership roles, they started coming. My favorite quote to live by is, “If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.”  The minute I start to get comfortable or complacent is a sign that I need to push myself. It’s time to exit that room, or change up the people in it. It can be very easy to become isolated and confined within the four walls of a classroom. Teaching doesn’t easily lend itself to professional networking.  

As mentioned previously, throughout my travels I have been blessed to meet some inspiring people in my profession. When I surround myself with people who are also passionate about teaching and being leaders in the profession, really great stuff happens! I have made some incredible friendships. Surrounding myself around others who are positive and driven pushes me to work harder. Keeping away from negative people, who resist change has been critical to my leadership journey.

It is possible to be a leader in our profession and still be a classroom teacher. It is amazing how one opportunity leads to another and another. Start small, and get the snowball rolling. We need to keep the best teachers in a classroom for the sake of our students!

Cassandra Joss is a 3rd-grade teacher in Utica Community Schools, located in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. In addition to serving as a member of the Common Core Leadership Cadre for the Michigan Education Association, she is a guest lecturer in math methods at Oakland University, and a member of BetterLesson’s Math Master Teacher Project. To see all of Cassandra’s Kindergarten math lessons, please click here.

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