Thursday, June 25, 2009

On Becoming a Teacher Leader

Two years ago when I was invited to run as the WTU Vice President of Special Education, I could hear the voice of my mom (who's in the Philippines) whispering to me. It was the same voice that was telling me not to get involved in student activism when I went to college at The University of the Philippines (the country's premiere university). Mom knows very well that I firmly stand for what is right, my passion for what I do is contagious, and that I am overly persistent to get what I want; this could be very dangerous at a very idealistic young age.

Two years ago when I was asked to run under the slate of President George Parker, I asked a wise old union leader in my school why I was chosen to lead and he replied looking straight at me "Because you make things happen". Well, I said, they will be dissapointed. I am not an activist, I hate politics, I am very positive and proactive, I have a good relationship with everyone, they definitely will not like me there but, yes, I make things happen.

Two years was spent just observing, listening, trying to make sense of what's going on around me when I sit on the table during executive board meetings. I am a very hyperactive person, it is too difficult for me to sit still and listen for hours during meetings. I guess I am just like my students in some ways, restless. I couldn't take it anymore, I needed to be productive. At the beginning of this year, I submitted my Performance Target Plan to President Parker outlining what I was planning to accomplish as the Vice President for Special Education. Am I right on target? Yes, I should have added more things to do.

This is the heart of what I do as a leader, communicating, connecting and collaborating with the members and our partners. This is the soul of what I do as an educator, advocating for my students. I realized that when I empower, support, encourage and inspire the teachers to do their best for the kids, I am impacting the lives of more than just the students in my classroom.

Last Monday, during the conference, US Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan emphasized in his speech the important role that the national teachers unions and other leading foundations play in turning around schools and transforming education. Before he ended, he said,

"The education reform movement is not a table where we all sit around and talk. It’s a train that is leaving the station, gaining speed, momentum and direction. It is time for everyone – everywhere – to get on board."

I know I am. Are you?

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