Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Be Prepared to Let Go to Grow

I was recently selected as an “Emerging Leader” with ASCD (formerly the Association for Curriculum and Development), and attended a leadership conference with both new and experienced leaders within the organization. The theme of the conference was “Revolutionizing the Way we Learn”, which includes revolutionizing our relationships, practices and processes, and our innovations and designs (as noted by ASCD Executive Director, Dr. Gene Carter).

One phrase from Dr. Carter’s opening keynote that really stuck with me was that as educators and educational leaders, we must “be prepared to let go to grow.” This phrase caused me to reflect upon the things I have had to let go of over my career as an educator, which I have listed below:

  • I let go of a job I was familiar with to enter the field of education (without ANY experience or educational coursework).
  • I let go of working in solitude to become part of a collaborative science department.
  • I let go of my traditional, teacher-centered practices to implement inquiry-based, student-centered methods.
  • I let go of my comfortable classroom teacher role to move into a leadership role with the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative.

As I reflected about the things I have let go of, I began to realize how much each of them has helped me grow:
  • I entered the field of education and found a career that I truly love.
  • I became part of a collaborative science department and learned how to work with others as a team.
  • I implemented inquiry-based practices and found a better way to help ALL of my students improve their scientific literacy as they gained critical thinking skills.
  • I moved into a leadership role and learned how to help other teachers transform their practices to better meet the needs of their students.

Now that I am serving in a variety of leadership roles, I understand that in order to continue to grow I must continue to let go of things that could hold me back. So how can I help other educators learn to let go so that they too can grow?

I believe that the ability to reflect is an important part of this growing process. I learned how to be more reflective of my practices as an educator while completing my National Board Certification. Proposition 4 of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Core Propositions states that teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.

If you are not ready to jump into the National Board Certification process, but are interested in becoming more reflective, here are a few ideas to help you get started (adapted from http://jasontbedell.com/characteristics-of-a-reflective-educator).

  • Set time aside specifically for thinking about your professional practice, your growth needs, and your students’ needs.
  • Take action upon your focused thoughts about professional practice. Do not continue in a course of action that you realize is not working.
  • Know your strengths and be cognizant of your weaknesses. Take planned steps to improve in those weak areas.
  • Seek feedback from many sources, such as other teachers, students, parents, and administrators. Be open to constructive criticism.
  • Share your experience with the understanding that it can benefit others who may be able to learn from them.
As the new school year begins, I encourage you to take the time to be a reflective educator/ educational leader. What do YOU need to let go of to grow?

~Amy Fowler Murphy, Ed.S., NBCT
Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative

photo credit: Brandon Doran via photo pin cc


  1. Thank you for sharing these important thoughts! There are always so many opportunities for innovation at the start of a new school year. It is in fact only when we enter the opportunity with a willingness to be changed that we can in fact bring about change for ourselves and our students. Alabama's NBCTs are leading the way for so many educators across the state and across the nation.