The Power of Visibility
2018-19 marks my twentieth year as a teacher. Some days I feel like my career is still unfolding before me with abundant opportunities to try new ideas, make mistakes, and grow as if I am still nascent in my experience. Even when I am overtired, overworked, and deep in the struggle of effectively serving the students in front of me, these days nourish me.
The other days…they can grind me down for many reasons, but one of the most impactful is the school leadership.
By 2014-15, I was hungry for an administration with a vision, for leaders who not only respect the work of Curie’s staff, but also inspire it. We serve amazing kids at Curie. That’s why I chose to work here, and why I still do. We have an amazingly dedicated and passionate staff, but our school was adrift. Many students chose to attend Curie because it was “less bad” than other options. Teachers felt increasingly disconnected from families and families did not feel welcome in the school. Many of us felt ineffective despite working hard every day.
Enter Dr. Allison Tingwall. I held my breath the first year Allison became Curie’s principal. She came in with a plan and brought teachers, parents and students to the table to re-think Curie’s vision. She was visible in the hallways, and for the first time in a long while, students actually knew who the principal was. She would stop by teachers’ offices and sit down for a few minutes to talk, working to know each person by name. I concentrated on my teaching, having pulled back from leadership roles under the previous principal, so my own encounters with Allison fell into small moments like these and school-wide meetings. I watched and waited to see more.
The following year, our relationship developed. We had many after school conversations, and while I may have been invited to these so Allison could learn more about Curie, I found them enlightening. Here was a fellow educator who was deeply invested in high-quality instruction and who had insight on not only what that looked like, but how to guide others toward it. Here was a person who listened as much as she spoke.
In year three, Allison challenged me and several other teachers with bringing a year of school-wide professional development to our staff. She entrusted us to create and execute our vision. She gave us agency, and served as both a partner and advocate in the work, supporting us with resources, ideas and logistics. This team became the most fulfilling collaboration I have ever belonged to, in large part because Allison pulled devoted people together to do the authentic work of professional colleagues. By the end of the year, each of us had grown in our leadership and in our teaching practice.
I know Curie is on a journey, and journeys take time. As for me, I look forward to the continued support and challenge Allison provides in our collective work.
There will still be days that grind, but I feel empowered to shift out of those days and to lend a hand to colleagues as they find a way out of theirs. Together, we can move forward, reclaim our agency, and effect positive change at Curie. Thank you, Allison.