How Am I a Leader and a Follower as a Teacher?

How am I a teacher-leader and a follower?  This post is week 3 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.  I had a hard time with this prompt because I pride myself on NOT being a follower.  I didn't name my blog "Shut the Door and Teach" because I felt like I only get by by copying others.  Sure, I team up with my colleagues to plan and make sure we're in synch, but the word "follower" rubbed me the wrong way!  It took a while for me to revisit this term and come at it from a few angles to start to approach it. 

My first connection to the idea of being a follower was that I follow the interests and new trends my students bring to our class each year.  When Minecraft was popular, I used it to enhance our studies of natural resources.  When bottle flipping was popular, I used it as a way to practice the steps of the scientific method.  It doesn't always work out (Fortnite is not really school appropriate, for example) but often I find the children keep things fresh and new for our classroom and it pays to follow their lead.  And of course we love to dance to current songs at the end of the school year! 

Another way that I've been a follower is that of course, our principal sets expectations that we have to follow.  The district purchased Math in Focus and Journeys, so we are expected to follow those curricula (although I supplement plenty).  He also set policies about holding Morning Meeting as well as not grading homework (which I talk more about in the linked post).  My biggest takeaway from my time with our former principal (today was officially his last day) is to make every child feel a sense of belonging.  I didn't always agree with how he handled behavior issues.  But with Morning Meeting, greeting kids when they arrived, fun Friday lunches, the graduate parade on the last day of school, and Student of the Month assemblies to promote character, it was obvious that it was what he strove for above all else.  As I described in my Timeline of Teaching Development, he helped me develop a greater empathy for my students. 

Overall, I feel I'm more of a leader than a follower.  Of course I act as a team with my grade level partner, but because I have seniority (and was on the committee that interviewed and hired him) I feel like the lead teacher often times.  Our district doesn't have a social studies curriculum so we've used my regions units from the beginning.   I developed a to do list to help him set up and think about how to get started in his first classroom (it's free and editable if you'd like to download it).  Otherwise, when it comes to my colleagues and online learning communities, I am more of a collaborator than a leader or follower.  I get lots of ideas about teaching science and informational writing, and I share my math games and grammar resources.  Here on my blog, I write and reflect on my experiences teaching fourth grade, and I also read other blogs to see what others are struggling with and how they are improving their instruction.  On Instagram and Pinterest, I share photos and ideas and get ideas as I browse. 

So although there's a bit of a leader and follower in all of us, where on the continuum are you currently? 

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