Climbing up to stay in

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I did not leave the classroom for lack of leadership opportunities. I had the good fortune to teach at a school whose administration encouraged and developed staff, myself included, to become teacher-leaders. I left because I wanted a new set of challenges and I wanted to explore the possibility of scaling my impact in education through policy and research.
My one-woman jury still debates this issue, and every now and then I feel tugged to return to the classroom.  While I could say that this happened most recently when I saw kids crossing the street, back-packs thumping against them as they bounced off to a new school year... it didn't.  It happened when I heard about DCPS's new Leadership Initiative for Teachers (LIFT).

DCPS is trying to assemble a nuanced and comprehensive performance management system that will not only compensate effective teachers financially but also through increased opportunities for leadership. It sounds like a challenge. Beyond that, it also sounds like something that would provide professional acknowledgement of my effectiveness as a teacher--an opportunity to feel I was advancing my career and leadership potential while still staying in a classroom.

Don't misunderstand me. It's not that I didn't feel the intrinsic reward that comes with seeing a child succeed and knowing that I contributed to that. I did and it was truly rewarding. But there is also part of me that wants a professional challenge that results in professional progress and recognition. The intrinsic and extrinsic rewards in teaching need not be mutually exclusive.

While there is much to continue debating and tweaking (for example, how to most accurately define 'effective' teaching), this initiative excites me because it could meet its goals. It could succeed in attracting and retaining the talent needed to help turn around our neediest schools and set students on a different life path.  And it may do that through providing opportunities for teachers to move up but still stay in the classroom where their knowledge and skill is so desperately needed.

Katie Moyer