The 'lollipop' moments of your life
Lollipop has long been my least favorite word in the English language. It’s not that I have anything against lollipops. In fact, I love them. But the word sounds strange. So I avoid it.
The Benton Community School District Ed Camp, however, changed what comes to mind when I hear the word lollipop. Instead of that grating 1950s song and the clunky mechanics of saying the word, I now think about the message in Drew Dudley’s “Leading with Lollipops.” This brief talk, which the Benton team showed to start the day, captures the enormous impact that seemingly small, inconsequential actions - like giving a lollipop to a stranger - can have on the lives of others.
Educators’ lives are filled with lollipop moments, most of which go unrecognized. The lollipop moment can be a singular event or the culmination of interactions over time. I experienced this phenomenon the year after I left the classroom when a former student ran up to me, gave me a hug, and said, “Mr. Wise, I was so blessed to have you as my history teacher. I would not have survived my freshman history class in college if you hadn’t been my teacher in high school.” Had we not randomly bumped into each other, I would never have known the impact I had on her life.
In Iowa, the Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) system creates more opportunities for teachers to have lollipop moments with colleagues. In the June American Institutes for Research report on TLC, nearly all (98%) of the teacher leaders participating in statewide focus groups agreed or strongly agreed that TLC provides teachers opportunities to engage in high-quality collaboration with peers.
The opportunity for lollipop moments, for teachers to positively impact the lives of their colleagues, grows with more frequent engagement.
In addition, we also know that teacher leadership not only strengthens the quality of collaboration and professional learning, over time it also improves student learning. The highest performing education systems in the world all have teacher leadership at the core of their approach to strengthening instruction.
I had the privilege of participating in a panel in Washington D.C. in June for the release of the new book Empowered Educators, which was commissioned by Marc Tucker and the National Center on Education and the Economy. The lead author, Stanford’s Linda Darling-Hammond, and a team of researchers examined several high-performing education systems - including Australia, Canada, Finland, Shanghai, and Singapore - and discovered common themes across each of these systems, which sit at the center of TLC:
- Teaching is a collaborative, not isolated, profession.
- Teaching is a learning profession in which teachers continually learn new skills and increase their knowledge.
- Teaching provides opportunities for leadership and decision making.
I’m excited both to work in a state that is building upon best practices to improve teaching and learning and is serving as a model for other states and the nation. Just last week, United States Senators Chris Coons, Joni Ernst, Chuck Grassley, and Jack Reed introduced the Teachers Are Leaders Act, which draws heavily from the TLC model. Iowa is out front in cultivating teacher leadership and all Iowa educators are a part of this achievement.
I hope each of you finds time this summer to reflect on the lollipop moments in your life and consider the opportunities you have for continued impact in the year ahead.