Keeping Teachers in the Classroom, My Thoughts From ECET KY

Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers

I had never been to an ECET (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers) conference until last weekend.  I was excited when I got the invitation and Meme Ratliff and her team certainly did not disappoint.  I think any opportunity I have as a teacher to be surrounded by other teacher leaders is always important as it inspires me and nourishes my soul and ECET did that.  However ECET also left a lasting impression on my thoughts of teacher leadership in Kentucky.

Moving Up the Ladder

I feel like it is human nature to believe we are all supposed to “move up the ladder”.  From corporations to public service it seems in order to be deemed successful that we must always be looking to moving on the next big thing, project, or promotion.  Teaching is no different.  We seem to encourage our best and brightest teachers to become administrators, curriculum coaches, district specialists, curriculum writers, and more in order to acknowledge their effectiveness.  However, each time one of the teachers makes that move we are also robbing classrooms full of students from the inspiration, expertise, and attention that teacher once provided.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying teachers shouldn’t make the move up the educational ladder but I am also intrigued by thoughts of giving effective teachers incentive to take on larger leadership roles while staying in the classroom.

I loved hearing Robin Thacker’s story at ECET.  Robin was a teacher who did what so many of us do and moved to assistant principal, principal and beyond only to find her heart and soul remained in the classroom.  I thought it was amazing to hear how she finally followed her heart instead of her head and went back to the classroom whether it was what people believed to be a good career move or not.  Robin’s students are lucky to have her as is Kentucky education as she is a powerhouse teacher leader but the thought remains in my head, how do we keep teacher’s like Robin in the classroom?

Here I Am

I would venture to guess that I hear at least 15 times a week that I won’t stay in the classroom much longer.  I am not sure what drives people to say this to me but I feel there is always a voice in my ear telling me to do curriculum work, to consult, to be an administrator or put my “talents” to use being more than “just” a teacher.  Here’s the problem…I don’t want to.  I love walking into my classroom everyday.  I am exhausted, perpetually behind, sometimes feel like I could do more but I love that classroom.  I love the look on kids faces when they finally get a difficult topic, I love how excited they are when I show up at their basketball game, I love that they go home and occasionally share with their parents a cool real-world lesson we did for the day, I just love them…even the ones who make it hard.

Do I lack motivation or drive because I am content spending my days in a classroom rather than in meetings?  Maybe I do I have no idea, but I do know I love teaching Kentucky’s kids.  For now I fill the need to “move-up” by volunteering in many teacher leadership roles which is very fulfilling as well.  Conferences like ECETKY definitely help do this for lots of teachers across the state, as do things like Hope Street Group, EngageEd Kentucky, and lots of others that are too numerous to name.  However I also think it is time we think of more ways to keep Kentucky’s teacher leaders right where they should be…in front of kids.

For the record I have no idea what the solution to this problem is.  I don’t fault any of my great friends who have left teaching for other education pathways.  They did what was right for them.  I don’t doubt the need for good administrators just as much as the need for good teachers.  However I also think there is a need to continue to cultivate the power of Kentucky’s teacher leaders.  There is a need to give teachers an incentive to take on larger leadership roles at a local, regional and state level.  However there is also desperation to keep our best and brightest in the classroom for Kentucky’s kids.

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