Task Zero, Review:
Rocking the Boat by Debra Meyerson, is a very insightful book about what a leader is and the variety of characteristics involved. A person is a leader whether they openly act or not. Meyerson states, “I wrote the book for people who walk a fine line between challenging established norms and upholding them.” (pg. 9). People with this characteristic, she calls tempered radicals. Tempered radicals are people who seek ways to change or rock the boat to bring about improvements in their community. They seek to work within the system they are members of to bring about equality, diversity, and innovations to improve the community/environment as a whole. People who rock the boat are not boisterous or seek recognition for the work they’ve done. They are people who often work in the background and work subtly to bring about change in small increments. People who rock the boat contend with daily challenges. They determine when and how to make moves for change while staying true to who they are. This can be a delicate balance however, as tempered radicals must figure out when to make a move through their actions or voice. Who to approach and when, as well as who to engage in the work at hand. One way I like to think about it is when structures or programs in an organization are not equal, diverse, or innovative, you can complain about it and do nothing. The next step after complaining is follow up with a suggestion, this is the first step, it gets the idea out in the open, something for people to talk/think about, “rocking the boat” Tempered radical/leaders do not do this on their own, they seek support from outside as well as within the community they seek to change.
Task Two, Becoming a Tempered Radical:
As stated in the book we are seldom in one place on the continuum, which depends greatly on what we seek to change and how. I would like to be in a place where I can leverage small wins on issues in my school. Small wins are those issues where everyone has something to gain even though it may require a little more time or money from those on each side. The book provides great examples of small wins gained by individuals in the book, such as Peter who took the initiative to hire minorities, whom in turn agreed to hire minorities and keep in contact with them. This small gesture grew over time and Peter’s goal of having more minority people in the company worked. My one concern is the amount of time it takes. This is a great example of patience and trust that it takes to win and cause change within one’s community or workplace. Though I don’t seek out people who are like me I do know I can not start the process of change in my work environment alone. In order for change to occur I must be the change I wish to see and often that requires help from other people. I want to do collaborative projects with my colleagues and provide students the opportunity to apply and create what they’ve learned not only from science class, but other subjects as well. I have made a small step in that direction by working with the art teacher and engineer of my school to have all of the 8th grade students participate in making a backsplash in the science lab of the periodic table of elements.
Task One, How am I different?
During the first read of this book I highlighted the way I am different is number three “...those who values, beliefs, and agendas differ from those of the majority.” (pg.57). Some characteristics of people who fit this group are, they don’t seek out people like themselves, we also don’t see this stance as a personal problem, and we are people who are not apologetic about our positions and see that change has to take place with the community’s work practices. I am more situated in this group because I do latch onto issue related to my personal values and beliefs. For example, at the school I work we are not allowed to give zeros for work students did not do, we can only give an F. This is the case even for homework which can be no more than 10% of a student’s grade. If a child does no homework they can still receive a B which is 90%, if everything is done perfectly, so why not give them a zero for not doing it. In addition, science is not a core subject that impacts students ability to graduate, thus they can fail science and as a 8th grader still graduate. To me science is of great value and having a firm understanding can be a great benefit to students, however, I am one voice in a sea of other people who think otherwise. I know I am not the only person who thinks this way, because other teachers have the same concern, we have been somewhat successful in pushing back and this year we were able to give students 50% for not doing their homework, I guess you can call that a small win.
Task Three, Facing Challenges
The 4 challenges identified by Meyerson are “...difficulties of ambivalence, the incremental lures of co-optation, potential damage to reputation, and frustration and burnout.” (pg. 157) I have dealt with each one of these at one point or another, some more extreme than others, but nonetheless very real to me. For the purposes of this reflection I will focus on only 2 difficulties, ambivalence and frustration and burnout. There are areas of my work where I am ambivalent, but to get past it I don’t hold onto things very long. There were times I did, but I’ve learned they’re just moments in time. If I choose I can live to fight another day or wait for a more opportune time. Waiting for the right moment can be a risk, but the time can be used to reflect on other concerns and determine the next move. When I feel defeated now I can keep in mind what Meyerson stated, “Tempered radicals make ongoing, deliberate efforts to maintain affiliations, to take satisfaction in their efforts, and to make explicit the connection between their local efforts and the broader significance of them.” The challenge of frustration and burnout are ever present for teachers. There have been many frustrating situations such as the smartboards in our school not working, or not having the appropriate math textbooks for a year, do I continue to voice my concerns about this or let it go. I’m glad I didn’t or otherwise we would not have had Toshiba, the company we purchased our boards from come out and determine our smartboards were out of warranty or start the math team communicating about what math resources were needed. I bring it up at every meeting and each time I get a little further along than I did before.
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Leadership means taking action to bring about change or improvements.
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