Language Educators Can—and Must—Be Champions of Change
By Brandon Locke | Published: April 4, 2017
This past fall, Lea Graner Kennedy and I co-authored the framing article for ACTFL’s Language Educator. The entire issue focused on empowering educators, and in our article, we suggest that language educators can lead the way as champions of change by seizing the moment to build bridges necessary to overcome the separation and division that exist in many school and work settings. Language educators can enhance understanding of diverse perspectives by fostering authentic use of language and connecting with other cultures and communities. Language educators have the ability to influence students, parents and administrators to develop cultural competence.
We chose the acronym “LEAD” to frame our suggested strategies. “LEADing the way” refers to Leadership and its roles: Effective practices of leaders, Arenas to enter to bring about change and Daring to take the risks needed to educate globally competent youth. Educators don’t have to be department chairs, supervisors or administrators to be effective leaders. By virtue of their position at the front of the classroom, teachers are leaders and can make a difference in many ways.
Our underlying message stresses acknowledgement and empowerment. Language educators can and must raise their voices so that they are heard within schools and districts, at the state level and most importantly, with students.
Here I want to explore the “E” from LEAD a little further by focusing on Effective practices and strategies to grow as a leader, namely:
- Be a learner
- Be curious
- Be collaborative
- Be reflective
- Be passionate
Be a Learner
It may be cliché to say that it’s important to be a lifelong learner. But leaders must continually maintain their own learning, not only to stay fresh and relevant, but also to share knowledge with others. Furthermore, it is important that leaders model their ongoing learning so as to inspire others—“walking the walk,” if you will. Specifically, they need to balance their learning by reading books and articles grounded in research, attending conferences, participating in webinars and engaging with other professional colleagues.
If you're curious, you’re most likely an active learner, as the two go hand-in-hand. Yet I often think of curiosity as the spark that leads to the most substantial learning. Curiosity often stems from observing, actively participating and engaging, all of which lead to questioning, theorizing and ultimately, even more learning.
When I think of the word “collaboration,” I am reminded of the quote by cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” I view collaboration as the next step after curiosity and learning. In a way, it takes these two components to the next level by actively sharing the ongoing learning with a colleague. This work pushes us to better ourselves, and others—students, fellow teachers, administrators and community members—will also benefit in the long run. I suggest partnering with a colleague to co-present at a conference or co-write an article.
A good leader is also a reflective leader. Curiosity, learning and collaboration are often rendered meaningless unless one takes the time to reflect upon what is working and what could be improved. One component I value in my own professional life is mentoring emerging teachers, as it blends the notions of collaboration and reflection. Mentoring is a powerful tool that not only helps us grow as professionals, but often leads to productive, ongoing friendships.
The final component of Effective leadership is being passionate. In our article, we write:
Through our experiences, we have seen many passionate language teachers: passionate about the language, the culture, and, of course, the students. At this crossroads, we need more than ever to take this passion to build capacity and foster the growth of even more leaders in our field.
Imbued with a sense of optimism and a love for our work, world language educators can bring about meaningful change by working toward a future that embraces our diversity. Passion and energy often serve as springboards to inspire others.
Together we can—and must—step up as leaders to build a nation of biliterate, interculturally competent and open-minded youth.
About the Author
Brandon Locke is the director of World Languages at the Anchorage School District in Alaska, where he oversees K–12 immersion and non-immersion language programs in seven different languages. He was a Lac du Bois villager, staff member and dean, and now serves as dean of Concordia Language Villages Teacher Seminars and STARTALK programs. Currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Indiana University, Brandon has a strong passion for teacher education, specifically improving K–12 language programming.comments powered by Disqus