Sunday, March 6, 2011

Power

I've listed The New Teacher Project as this blog's out-link for a purpose; It's been roughly two months since I've posted something here, and in that time, the NUF mid-year conference has happened, at which we heard incessantly about leadership, what it means, precise ways for you to foment that within yourself, and what precisely to do with it after you've managed to get ahold of it. Gina Rudan spoke to us about how she helps others find the intersection of their skills and their passions, and that was an interesting conversation. David Mensah spent a great deal of time talking about finding your personal mission, and I realized at that particular point, that I hadn't really nailed down what mine was. All was not lost, however, as I realized shortly after my triumphant return to the Capital region what precisely that was.

One of my closest friends in New York has a brother-in-law that lives in the area, and inevitably, we've also become fast friends. His children likewise think I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread. Once I was back there, interacting with youth, it came to me like a Mack truck to the face - the youth, the future of tomorrow. That is my mission: to make sure that they are raised well, that they are shown the proper way to operate in society, that they learn well how to be valuable members of our culture. To that end, I've begun to refocus my post-fellowship job search to ensure that it has to do with Youth Development or a position as Education Director for an institution.

Amusingly, I recently read about a program in Philadelphia that has to do with interpreting in the school system. At the same time, I found myself wondering if there has been sufficient forethought and planning gone into the program for them to select a director. I know that operating simultaneously in two fields that I hold near and dear to my heart would be closely akin to paradise. We shall have to see how close to that I manage to find myself.

I continually refer back to Collins' scale of Level 5 leadership for a reason. Having participated in martial arts, operated in a school system, studied leadership through this fellowship, performed as an interpreter, written as a citizen journalist, and a whole variety of interesting things during my professional life, I believe I have developed a sense of what the term entails. I know for a fact it is horrifically overused. I also know that a majority of people overusing it have generally done so for the purpose of powerful self ascription of importance. My particular issue is education, youth development, and within that language access. So, when I see like posting a list of nearly 5,000 teachers who will find themselves under the ax due to 'budget constraints' and other efforts meant to unwind collective bargaining are solely to the detriment of or nation, and most specifically the more than 1.1 million students in the NYC Department of Education's care, I know 'leadership,' due to its overusage, is losing any semblance of validity. There is a better way, and there are agreements to be made. Students of history remember that the first thing every cult of personality did in order to rise to power was to decimate the teaching force. TNTP has been complicit in producing proposals to that end, and it is apparent that their objectives are in line with the philosophy.

Leadership is not only in the professional field, however, and this is where I find myself in a quandary. Our capstone experience is potentially one of the most intense pieces of the entire fellowship, but having done one or two dedicated research papers while in my initial Master's degree at NYU, and very similar types of brain intensive work as a teacher for 12 years - curriculum writing, and major projects that I developed to be able to utilize in the classroom, - this was perhaps less of a stressful enterprise for me than it likely should have been. I turned in 51 pages (with 52 references) nearly a week before the due date, and dedicated the remaining time to advising and coaching classmates that might be finding themselves in a difficult place. This week, I also received word from one journal that I had pitched an essay to that they are willing to accept my writing. I'm incredibly pleased about this because, not only does it result in a publication credit, it also results in remuneration! This, I believe, is more the type of leadership - thought leadership - for which we should be aiming.

Next weekend, my sister, my parents, my closest friend from high school whom I have not seen in nearly 20 years, and his wife and children descend upon my small hamlet for the weekend. My sister is also participating in a range of events and conferences with the City Council Chairman of her town, meetings with Congresspeople, and so forth as she climbs the political ladder. There is an evening planned for the DC dozen to meet with her, the City Council Chairman, and several other key players in about a week, and it will be the first time I'm in the same room with so many noteables at once. I think this is the point at which I should feel apprehensive. My main preoccupation for the evening is to make sure that I have enough networking cards available to hand out at the encounter. I can almost guarantee that there will be interesting photos from the affair.

Not necessarily as interesting as a Mariachi band headed by Antonio Banderas, but, you get the idea...