Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Early Career Leadership Fellow Collaborative

I'm finally starting to get some details about this really exciting collaborative I'm participating in. It's an initiative by the National Education Association and the Consortium for Educational Change to engage early career educators to grow as leaders, create plans for change, and activate them in their local unions. It's called the Early Career Leadership Fellow Collaborative (that's a mouthful).

This coming weekend I'll be headed to NEA headquarters in Washington D.C. for the first national conference of the ECLF. There's been a lot of uncertainty organizing the travel and details of this trip. It's all been on quite short notice. I applied for the program around the 1st of September, was accepted around the 10th. Early Saturday Morning, October 1st, I fly out to DC.

There's also been some uncertainty about what exactly this program is going to be. 'Leadership' is a funny buzzword that means a lot of different things depending on who's saying it and what the context is. In particular, as a woman, leadership can be a tricky tight rope to walk. As an aggressive and loud woman, bossy has often been a part of how people see me, but never the less I tend to gravitate towards opportunities for leadership.

I've been thinking about what the future of my career holds. I'd always sort of figured that after I got some experience under my belt, I'd go back to Eugene. That is where I see as home. But I've come to really like Salem, and in some ways feel more connected to some communities here then I ever did in Eugene. But, I think that is more about who I am now and my maturity in my relationships and interactions, then it is anything about the town. I bet if I were to move home, my renewed relationships with the community would mirror the relationships I've built here in Salem.

Eugene continues to not have a ton of openings for teachers, however, and I have grown to really love my position in Salem. I love working in alt-ed, and I have been so fortunate to have excellent relationships not only with colleagues, but also with administration. Why should I leave when I have so many good things happening here?

My mom got her first permanent teaching position at Elmira Elementary, and stayed there her entire career. She moved classrooms a few times, taught a few different grades, but essentially honed her craft of 1st/2nd grade to damn near perfection. I don't see myself taking that path. I love being a classroom teacher, but I don't think teaching the same subjects in the same school my entire career is for me. As I come to know more about what options and and opportunities there are in the field of education, my imagination explores many different possibilities. Not now, not next year, but perhaps in the next 5-10 years.

I see a major need for middle school alternative ed programs. I'm sure this isn't a unique need to Salem-Keizer. I could start a school or a program. I had an incredible mentor the last two years to assist me as I navigated my first few years of teaching (hell, I think every teacher should ALWAYS have someone available to them in that capacity!), I could mentor others in a similar way. There's district level positions to help implement policies and programs that address poverty, diversity, racism, behavior issues, ACEs, TAG students, the possibilities are wide. And of course there's always administration.

All of this is to say, the opportunity to develop skills and connections in the field of teacher leadership is a very exciting one to me. But my interest lies predominantly in the profession. I'm a union supporter, and am so grateful and thankful for my union, but I don't see myself pursuing the role of building rep, or being particularly active politically in my union, or in the labor and negotiation side either.

I'm excited to see what this Collaborative has to offer, I'm eager to pick up new skills, learn about what is out there, and work side by side with my union for the betterment of children, and the Education System in America, to be social justice warriors on behalf of children. I hope that ECLF isn't just about getting us involved in union leadership.

The schedule looks exciting, and the desired outcomes seem engaging. I'm thrilled to be going on this trip, and excited for the possibilities that it brings. Regardless, I will grain through this experience.

I'll definitely updating during the conference itself. Probably predominantly on Twitter and Instagram.

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