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Elevator Pitch

August 17, 2016

Teachers as Leaders

Winter retreat Feb14 copy

MALI winter retreat, Farnsworth Art Museum, phase IV

As I reflect on the 6th annual summer arts education institute held last week I marvel that we’ve come so far in a short period of time. The reason is clear – teachers as leaders. The Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) is very proud of the work that the Teacher Leaders having taken on in the last 5 years and continue to do so with gusto!

During the institute teacher leaders were involved in ‘creating a message’ that is often called an ‘elevator speech’ or ‘elevator pitch’. We used this definition of an elevator speech: The art of persuading a listener through a brief speech to spark interest in an idea, project, product or event. You’ll never know when you’ll have the chance to speak to a parent, school board member, administrator or a colleague in school or out of school. Can you articulate why access to a quality visual and performing arts education is essential for all students? I believe that our number one role is to provide this education. Number two role is to advocate so this happens. This is at the heart of being a teacher leader and part of our roles as educators. What do you think?  Please put your thoughts below in the comment section or email me at argy.nestor@maine.gov and let me know! Your thoughts are welcome.

Below is a post that was printed in Education Week – August 5, 2016

A Teacher Leadership Elevator Pitch: And An Invitation to Write Your Own
By John T. McCrann

Have you ever been asked to write an “elevator pitch?” The idea is that you propose your ideas to a thought leader or big wig with whom you happen to be riding an elevator with. Your job: simply describe the crux of your ideas and their value in the time it takes to go down a few floors.

This spring as part of an application for a teacher leadership fellowship/award I wrote the one below directed at my school district’s leader, Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

The idea of an “elevator pitch” feels problematic to me in some ways. As someone who counts reading long novels, engaging in hours-long discussions, and working through complex math problems over several days as some of the most educative moments of my life, I worry that we lose learning opportunities in a world that places emphasis on brevity over depth of thought (feel free to Tweet me if your thoughts on this disagree…just kidding).

That being said, the process of distilling my ideas about teacher leadership into a bit-sized chunk did feel like a beneficial activity for me as a leader. It was useful to be able to read through this as I start to think about the year ahead and where I want to devote my time in terms of teacher leadership activities.

Teachers, what’s the main thing you hope to accomplish in teacher leadership this year? Everyone else, what should teacher leaders be fighting for this year? Share your elevator pitches in the comment section.

Chancellor Farina, I bet at some point you’ve overheard a teacher complaining to another about something coming from the district or administration: “why are “they” doing this to us?”

I am a teacher and teacher leader who doesn’t hear that any more and I want to help make New York City the one place in the country where teachers won’t ever say it. Let’s stop talking about “they” and create a system of “we.”

Students learn best from teachers who can differentiate instruction for all their students, addressing the specific needs of specific students.

A “we” system would give community-based learning experts more influence over policy decisions and a greater ability to innovate on behalf of students. Let’s empower schools to create solutions.

We’ve started this work with the PROSE program, which we should strengthen and extend. Find new ways to incentivize superintendents and principals in distributing decision-making power. Create new avenues for teacher leadership.

Students also learn best when they are given meaningful, supportive, and regular feedback. A “we” system would re-imagine the way we think about assessment and accountability to meet these student needs.

The words assessment and accountability should not invoke abstract systems or number but real student learning evidenced through meaningful work.

The New York Performance Standards Consortium has a proven track record of collecting valid and reliable data with teacher-created performance tasks. As a system, we should learn from this example and expand the use of performance assessment to other schools and grade levels.

At my school, Harvest Collegiate High School, we are proud to be a part of the PROSE program and the Performance Standards Consortium, which you have supported and which are in the vanguard as education reform programs. I am proud to have played a leadership role in these groups.

I would love to work with you to help strengthen these programs and the “we” philosophy that forms their foundation.

To hear others tell it, “they” are incapable of helping our students. Depending on who you ask: they don’t give enough support or they attempt to micro-manage.

We can address this concern by removing “them” from the conversation.

That’s why you, me, my colleagues at my school, our colleagues across districts, we, the educators of New York City, need to lead.

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