By Vance Kite
Kenan Fellow 2013
How does one quantify a life changing experience?
To be honest, I was a reluctant Kenan Fellows applicant. Last February, a couple of respected coaches approached me about applying to the program. On the surface, it looked kind of fun, and the stipend was interesting, but I was not thrilled about the prospect of giving up a large portion of my summer.
I was coming off of a really intense first year at a new school and had spent the previous summer moving up from Florida. The only thing that I wanted to do with the summer was hang around the house, run and read. Thankfully, I was not to be afforded that summer of leisure.
On March 25, 2012 I received my acceptance letter from the Kenan Fellows Program. By this point I had come to terms with the opportunity, but still had a lot of hesitations. It wasn’t until after our first dinner together as Kenan Fellows that I was fully on board.
The Kenan Fellows experience has impacted me on multiple levels. Most obviously, it has provided me with tools and a deep network of contacts and friends that I will call upon for many years to come. I cannot say enough good things about the return on investment that will result from the time and energy that the Kenan Fellows Program has put into my professional development.
Pedagogically, I have been taken to a new level as a consequence of the ideas, strategies, and inspirations in which I have been immersed. By nature I am a fairly adventurous and experimental teacher, my time as a Fellow, however, has helped me to develop structures and frameworks to put around my adventure. It has given me ways to think about the things that I am doing. It has helped me to innovate with a clear goal in mind.
On a deeper level, my time as a Kenan Fellow has affirmed skills and abilities that I suspiciously thought might lurk in my being, but was never fully confident in exercising. From my early days I have been told that I am a leader, and while I have often been given positions of leadership, the label is never one that has sat easily with me. I am generally a pretty introverted person, often blush at compliments, and certainly am not the charismatic type (at least not as I perceive charismatic types to be).
Generally I am content to keep to myself and do a very good job of whatever I am working on. Over the past year or so I have become increasingly aware of the fact that people are watching what I do. I am being given respect and leadership positions that I certainly have not sought. My suspicions were made manifest when I received the feedback emails that were requested before this latest round of professional development.
Time and again my collegues made it clear that I lead by example and utilize tools and techniques that the rest of the staff would love to learn. Apparently mine is a case of actions speaking louder than words. I guess one of the things that I am blind to is how different my classroom is.
In my mind I am just a teacher who loves teaching. I don’t really see the work that I am doing as particularly unique or innovative. The techniques I employ are just what I think it takes to truly engage students in the learning process. Because I don’t perceive myself as doing anything unique I don’t often think that I have anything significant to offer to those around me.
My perspective, however, is shifting. After reading through my feedback forms and processing this week’s sessions I am coming to the understanding that I may have something unique to offer to those around me. As one who generally rants and raves about working for the good of the students I am beginning to realize that, for me, working for the good of students should probably extend beyond my own classroom.
Generally I wait for people to seek me out for help, and once they do I am more than happy to be of assistance. Maybe the biggest thing that I am presently internalizing is the need to step up and create environments that invite other teachers to enter into discussions that will help them along in their own practice as a teacher. Invitation into discussion is the best thing that the Kenan Institute has given me.
Maybe it is time to pay that forward and walk confidently into my new reality as a purposeful teacher leader.
The Kenan Fellows Program is an initiative of the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology & Science, and is generously supported by grants from business, foundations, government organizations, and individual partners.