(Originally posted on Principal Joey.)

By Joey Sagel

What is a great educator?  As a culture, we’ve bought into the notion (aided by just about any movie you can think of about a teacher) that being a great educator means rising above a corrupt and crumbling oppressive system and being a lone beacon of light in the midst of darkness.  Leaping tall buildings and overcoming insurmountable odds… alone.  It’s time we acknowledge the reality that any great school is great because of great teamwork and collaboration.  Being a professional learning community (PLC) can’t be something we do, it must be something we are.

What does it mean to be part of a great team?  Being a great team means embracing “we” instead of “I”.  Working together, supporting each other, challenging each other. Pushing as a team to a place we would have never accomplished as individuals.

I know a really great educator by the influence they have on their students, colleagues, and beyond.  They make those around them better.  They speak loudly every day through their example, but are willing to speak up on behalf of what is best for students.joey-sagel-quote

Something I’ve been reflecting on lately is our willingness to have the tough conversation with our colleagues…  I realize that sometimes my very human desire to be liked stops me from having a simple and honest conversation about best practices with those around me.  I realize that often I am willing to engage at that level on Twitter and sometimes shy away from it with those people who are closest to me.  There is an unwritten rule among teachers (and administrators too) that you just don’t want to be seen as telling someone else what to do.   But if we are unwilling to have that tough conversation with a colleague, how will they grow?  How will we grow?

I am reminded of one time during a conversation at an Edcamp when  a teacher told a story of a severely burned out colleague who handed out a packet of worksheets every day and then proceeded to read the paper for the rest of the hour.  No doubt if the building administrator didn’t become aware of the situation and address it, shame on them.  However, how could fellow teachers teaching right next to this person watch this happen day to day and never question the situation?   How could we not speak up on behalf of the students in that class?

Although I don’t relish a possible conflict any more than the next person, our students are too important not to have those conversations.  Starting as simply as “I noticed you did ____________” or “Can you explain to me why you did ______________?” could go a long way to building a culture where we are learning together, supporting each other, and ultimately challenging each other to be better educators than we were yesterday.

Joey Sagel is an Elementary School Principal. He shares his insights on his website, Prinicpal Joey. Follow Joey on Twitter at @principaljoey.