Things I Never Would Have Guessed About Teaching


by Amanda Morick

When I first entered the field of education, I never would have guessed that the teacher leader role would take on a mind of its own. I looked at administrators and thought, “There is no way I would want that kind of position. Way too much pressure is associated with taking the reins and spearheading change. I just don’t have the wherewithal for that sort of thing.”

I understood that teachers are lifelong learners, but I assumed that meant we needed to stay up-to-date in our content areas. I have found, through my work with Teach to Lead, that lifelong learning means meta-cognition at its finest. We must be constant innovators and introspective nearly to the point of mania in order to do the best for our students, families, and communities.

When I was pursuing my Master’s degree, I never would have guessed how a course entitled “Teachers as Leaders” would eventually relate to my daily practice. I successfully completed the course with an A, but I didn’t comprehend what this would look like or how I could put it into practice for myself.

The theory of how this type of leadership benefits the greater system of education made basic sense, but I didn’t have a vision for how I would fit in on my end. How could I have known I would proudly label myself as a teacher leader just a few years later?

When I received a call from my colleague, Lesley Hagelgans, I never would have guessed how our action research would emerge into a system-changing initiative. We began researching, surveying, and harvesting/analyzing data for our school alone. Before I knew it, we were ready to take on the whole field of education for our proactive efforts.

When I attended the Louisville Teach to Lead summit, I never would have guessed that our project would be encouraged and highlighted in our state and even the nation. Through the time spent seeing what other individuals, schools, districts, and states were doing to develop innovative ideas, I felt propelled in my interest to develop a stronger school community. Hearing success stories encouraged my belief that I really could do more to increase student achievement on a larger scale, even though I’m “only a teacher.”

Only a teacher? What? Is there anyone who knows more about the needs of learners? No way! If this is the case, then we should be the ones figuring out what’s best for our kids.

Even better, we are absolutely in the position to do just that. I learned ways to communicate with administration in a way that aligns their vision with ours. We discovered how others were already pioneering the road to teacher voice. The Teach to Lead initiative also showed me that there were significantly more resources available to me than I could have guessed.

I don’t dare to guess—now that I’ve seen the many surprises that teacher leadership has provided—what the future will hold for me as a teacher leader. As I develop my own ideas about what it means to lead from my role as an educator, doors continue to open, and progress continues to be made.

After we were selected to have a Leadership Lab at our school, our scope of possibility seemed nearly limitless. What we discovered was that because the community as a whole is striving to see successful, healthy humans, we were all invested in the same effort.

Providing a connection and common ground, the Lab put us all at the same table both literally and figuratively. Teach to Lead has pushed me to be a better teacher and a better contributor to society. Encouraging us to challenge the status quo has provided a platform for trying new things.

Friday, April 24, 2015

✧ Ed Journalism

What exactly do education writers talk about? On Monday, 500 of them attended the  Education Writers Association’s 68th Annual Seminar. Here are the top stories they were talking about.

✧ Early Ed

We all know early childhood education is extremely important. However, investments aren’t focused on where they should be: training teachers.

✧ Global Ed

What will the worldwide education goal of 2015 be? The Huffington Post thinks mobilizing national and international education standards and focusing on building strong communities are key.

✧ #Twitter

Twitter is a valuable resource for teachers. See how it can help you share, connect, and potentially heal.

✧ Game Theory

Could gaming be an effective way to teach students? Developers at DragonBox have created ed-minded games that seamlessly move students from basic level math into complex problems while maintaining the fun and imagination of traditional video games.

Let’s Talk about Your Dedication to Teaching

by Lesley Hagelgans

Being in the classroom for 15 years and being a teacher leader for the past five, young people looking for direction have often asked me about going into education as a profession. Well…it’s a loaded question.

I usually tell them, “RUN!” After a good laugh, a reflective and meaningful conversation occurs. This same conversation has been provoked on a wider scale in recent weeks.

Unless a teacher is living under a rock—or just plain buried in term papers at the end of a marking period—most have heard that Nancie Atwell won the first Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, the $1 million “Nobel Prize for teaching”.

What most educators probably didn’t see was the interview on CNN where the media took a whole 2 minutes and 24 seconds to acknowledge her award. During the last 40 seconds of the interview, she answered a question about what she says to kids who are thinking about going into teaching.

“Honestly, right now I encourage them to look in the private sector…if you are a creative, smart, young person, this is not the time to go into teaching unless an independent school would suit you.”

I myself have told young people who want to go into teaching something similar, so my gut reaction is the same as Nancie Atwell’s.

Following Atwell’s interview, Dan Brown wrote an op-ed piece, “$1 Million Global Teacher Prize Winner is Dead Wrong”, where he criticized Atwell:

“The most celebrated educator in the world is discouraging creative, smart young people from considering teaching in the American public school system, which serves 50 million children. That’s shocking. To support that position to its logical end, in which creative, smart young people steer away from teaching in public schools, is to surrender the future of the public education.”

Brown’s criticism challenged my own thinking and motivated me to reflect on the conversations I’ve had with young people considering education. For a brief moment, I felt ashamed of those times I had told young people to run.

I had to ask myself, “Why?” I value the same things as Dan Brown. I want creative, energetic people teaching my own children and others, too. Let’s face it: the future of this country depends on educators educating students, parents, other teachers, and policy makers.

Again, I asked myself, “Why did I tell young people to run?” What I had forgotten about were those meaningful conversations after the first laugh. Ironically, it’s because I want only the best and brightest to go into education.

I like to ask young people why they want to go into teaching. Most of them tell me they like working with kids and having a work schedule similar to the school year (going home at 3:00 and getting summers off).

That’s when the conversation gets real. I explain to them the demands of the job: lesson plans, grading, curriculum documents, assessments, data collection and analysis, counseling, parent teacher conferences, staff meetings, continuing education, PLC’s, etc.

I try to show them that a lot of time away from kids goes into making the time spent with kids as meaningful as possible. I invite them to come spend an hour, a day, a week, or even longer in my classroom.

I want these idealistic young people to know that teaching is a lifestyle, not a job. If they can’t handle that, I respectfully ask them to invest their efforts somewhere else. I only want the most dedicated people working in schools.

Did Nancie Atwell get it wrong? Not entirely. Was Dan Brown too harsh in his criticism? I don’t think so, either.

Schools need intelligent, young professionals full of enthusiasm in classrooms. However, as experienced professionals, we have a responsibility to make sure that these young people know what they’re getting into. Once they have a clear understanding of the big picture, seasoned educators also have the duty to cultivate the talent and energy of those that commit to the lifestyle of teaching.

So, what do I tell those young people now? “Let’s talk about your dedication to teaching.”


Lesley-Hagelgans-150(2)Lesley Hagelgans teaches Language Arts at Marshall Middle School in Marshall, Mich. She was a member of the National VIVA Task Force.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

✧ Fed Steps In

Yesterday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the federal government may have to intervene if states fail to address students and parents boycotting standardized assessments.

✧ Top 8

Here are 8 things teachers want you to know about them (including: they do WAY more than just teach). What would you add to the list?

✧ Teacher Evals

Rutgers University education professor Bruce Baker continues to question results from a report delivered by New York state last week, and addresses other factors that affect teacher ratings: class sizes and student gender.

✧ AZ Autonomy

With Arizona housing over 600 charter schools, the state is obviously open to experimentation. Its latest idea? Testing charter models that put teachers in charge.

✧ ESEA Rewrite, or Rewrong?

Does the latest ESEA rewrite include enough accountability measures? Concerns exist that the bill’s Title I may cause more problems than it solves.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 2.26.24 PM✧ VIVA Idea Exchange

Our teachers have spoken: our latest VIVA Idea Exchange report asked teachers across the country about the best ways to implement the Common Core to ensure student success. Click here to read the full report.

✧ Communication is Key

The transition to the Common Core can seem hard, but by opening up communication between teachers / administrators and parents, it can help bring clarity to concerned parents.

✧ LA CCSS Stays

Yesterday, the Louisiana House voted down its anti-Common Core bill a week after the infamous unicorn pictures were left on anti-Common Core supporters’ desks.

✧ TN CCSS Revamps

However, Tennessee House members voted to repeal and replace the state’s Common Core standards.

✧ Former Ed Secretary Endorses CCSS

A recent Iowa ad features former U.S. education secretary under former President Ronald Reagan, Bill Bennett, and endorses the Common Core standards, saying  “High standards are worth fighting for.”


Monday, April 20, 2015

✧ Secretary of EdTech

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan shares his vision for technology in the classroom—both his enthusiasm for the vast possibilities and his concerns about widening the socio-economic gap. “If the technology revolution only happens for families that already have money and education, then it’s not really a revolution.”

✧ Inequality & Effectiveness

A recent study conducted by the New York’s State Education Department found that black and hispanic students are taught by less effective teachers than white and asian students are.

✧ Who’s At Fault

In response to the article above, Bruce Baker’s research concludes that the state is at fault for the lack of fund allocation to low income schools (driving effective teachers to relocate) and a flawed teacher evaluation system.

✧ Successful Parents

Circling back to last week’s article about Success Academy, The New York Times highlights seven parents’ stories with the latest innovative school structure.

✧ US & Indian STEM disparity

A study conducted by Duke Talent Identification Program examines how gifted students from the U.S. and India spend their time both in and out of school. Indian students reported spending roughly 11 more hours on academics than their U.S. peers during the weekend in both STEM and non-STEM topics.

Friday, April 17, 2015

✧ Principal Issue

The NewYorkTimes explains why we need to shift our focus from teacher performance to examining principals effectiveness and how they play an essential role in education reform.

✧ #iwishmyteacherknew

One Denver teacher’s hashtag (an attempt to to get to know her students better) has started a national dialogue about listening to student voice.

✧ Time in School

Keeping in mind that children spend about a third of the day in school during the week, studies show that teacher-student relationships are vital and greatly impact a student’s quality of life.

✧ Bill Passed

Yesterday the No Child Left Behind rewrite went to the senate floor and was unanimously approved by the senate education committee.

✧ Blended Learning

The latest studies by the Evergreen Education Group and the Clayton Christensen Institute have found that blended learning models have proven to be successful. The first six case studies in the series have been released.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

✧ Christie’s Core

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie continues to distance himself from the Common Core despite initially supporting the standards.

✧ Comparing Countries warns against the “Country X is doing well educationally, so let’s emulate its education system” movement, in favor of comparing different sorts of school systems within nations.

✧ Union Stances

Peter Cunningham looks at the history of teacher unions and how they used to support teacher evaluations.

Building a Brighter Future

A New York City physical therapist has created an innovative program that helps students with special needs by teaching them to build custom furniture.


History of Math

NOVA’s latest video takes you on a journey through the history of math and highlights how math has and will continue to shape our world.

Monday, April 13, 2015

✧ Clinton’s Ed Stance

Now that Hillary Rodham Clinton has officially announced her presidential bid, check out her stance on eight leading education issues.

✧ AZ on CCSS

Arizona educators stress the importance of stopping the Common Core war, and focus on the education issues that matter.

✧ Consequences of Opting Out

Experts says that if enough students opt out of state-required tests, teacher evaluations will suffer since they’ll be based on a smaller, local pool.

✧ Low Teacher Morale

Is the well-documented low morale of teachers due to high stakes testing and a highly stressful work environment?

✧ Teachers of Color

Even though studies have shown a link between academic performance and children being taught by a teacher of their own race, there’s still a huge deficit of teachers of color.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

✧ Unreached Goal

The global goal made by world leaders back in 2000 promised that all children globally would have primary education by 2015 has officially not been achieved.

✧ Low Rate Teachers Working at Low Rated Schools

In New York, more than 20 percent of teachers at some of the state’s most struggling schools received the two lowest ratings on the state-mandated evaluation system last year.

✧ ESEA Rewrite

Edweek’s Politics K-12 break down the components of the intorduced ESEA rewrite brought to the Senate by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash.

✧ Teacher Thank You

A Kansas man sends his former High School home economics teacher a surprise $10,000 “Thank You” check.

✧ Teacher Resources

The Washington Post gives teachers 50 great apps that can help teachers with all subjects including language arts, special needs, and apps for teacher communication and organization.