the week, Bill and Melinda Gates are celebrating teachers. Today, Melinda is
spotlighting time she spent with teachers at the Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers convening in Seattle last month. Head to GatesNotes.com for more.
I want my students to know how remarkable they are. I strive
to instill a confidence in my students that they might not have had when they
first entered my classroom: a confidence that allows them to achieve their
goals, take on the world with tenacity and grace, and inspire others to do the
Similar to how my students feel on their first day, a year
and a half ago, I walked into a situation that was simultaneously
exhilarating and petrifying when I attended the national ECET2
convening (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers) in
Snowbird, Utah. I found myself face-to-face with 300 of the brightest and most
effective teachers from around the country. Palms sweaty, proverbial
butterflies in my stomach, I was riddled with feelings of inadequacy and
self-doubt. I was an imposter.
As the convening began, I was cautious in my approach and
reflective in my learning. I took pages upon pages of notes on using social
media to engage students and amp up learning the in classroom. I learned about
ways to seamlessly integrate literacy skills into history, math, and science. I
tweeted as fast as my little thumbs could--dozens of inspiring sound-bites
spoken by the teachers leading each breakout session.
Tears streamed down my face listening to keynote speakers
tell heart wrenching stories of just how much of an impact each and every one
of their students has on their lives. “Me too,” I mouthed as one speaker
described how each year he tells his elementary students that if they invite
him, he’ll be there cheering them on when they walk across the stage years
later to collect their high school diplomas.
In that moment I realized that I did belong in that space
and that space, in fact, was exactly where I needed to be.
The feeling was palpable; at ECET2 we were all
connected by our passion to do what’s best for kids. Everyone in that room was
committed to both building relationships with the students we see every day and
providing them with the best instruction possible.
Over the next few days I became more comfortable and even
more self-assured knowing I was among peers. I took fewer notes and instead
focused on engaging in conversations with those around me. It’s those
conversations, and the relationships that were built, many of which I still
rely on today, that helped me grow. I was empowered and, in that moment, I
realized again that I was not all that much different from my students. Some of
my favorite moments of being a teacher are those in which I see my students transition from learner to leader. On the
last day of ECET2 Snowbird I was transformed. My head was spinning with ideas and resources; I couldn’t wait to
get back in the classroom.
With the determination to spread the ECET2
experience to teachers in my home network, along with the time and effort of
amazing teacher leaders who hopped on this journey with me, ECET2
Puget Sound was born. Earlier this month, over 100 teachers were elevated and
celebrated at the second regional convening.
Through ECET2, thousands of teachers across the
country are given the opportunity to collaborate with each other through
meaningful teacher-to-teacher professional learning. The relationships built
are powerful and long lasting. After an ECET2 event, teachers walk
away with far more than the acquisition of new teaching strategies and a
handful of useful resources.
I walked away with a network of educators who helped me
develop a capacity for leadership within myself that I never knew I was capable
of. I walked away a better teacher. When educators have the opportunity to work
together in meaningful ways and experience teacher-led professional learning,
more students will succeed.
I have remarkable students. I know this even before they
step foot in my room. Through authentic learning experiences, collaboration,
and the utmost emphasis on the relationships I build with them, by the time
they leave my room on that last day in June, they know it too. Knowing that my
journey in teacher leadership looks strikingly similar, makes me that much more
passionate about our work together.