A gadfly? What’s a gadfly?


Why not, then, introduce the idea of having a gadfly on the staff—a teacher without her own classroom to serve all the classrooms in the school? (Hear me out, and suspend your disbelief.) I have often dreamed of taking on this role; this is how I see it:

I arrive in the morning to my small office, then check my computer to see if any teachers have made a request for help. Aha, Mrs. Wilson needs the material I promised this morning; the third grade wants help planning a trip to our local science museum. I first go to Mrs. Wilson’s fourth grade with the requested material, ready to teach a lesson. She decides to stay, and talks with me after about her impressions and ideas for continuing with her students. I then proceed to the third grade to meet with the team to plan the museum trip …

Throughout the day I rove as an observer, questioner, commentator, teacher, co-teacher, seminar leader, and idea person; I float by invitation from room to room. I help to make learning possible by advocating for meaningful, exciting, rigorous, engaging, humorous, stimulating, and worthwhile learning—for students and teachers. I imagine helping teachers to purge outmoded methods, to implement best practices, and to create new ones. I create feedback loops. I am not a judge. Instead, I become a pied piper among my peers.

As a gadfly, I break down the generational isolation that limits us, and find ways to release our gifts to one another. I see colleagues interacting on many levels by talking about teaching, creating new ideas, and designing aligned curriculums. When I take over a class at a teacher’s request, she either chooses to stay, or decides to spend time with a colleague, or prepares on her own. I create opportunities for ad hoc conversations to develop collegiality.

As my homework, I reflect on the day and look for web resources, materials, books, articles, and people in response to staff needs and requests. Before going to bed, I either email or text, if necessary, and prepare what to bring the next day.

I break down the isolation—unwittingly self-imposed—surrounding all of us…


For exciting ideas about improving schools and the classroom read Chapter 15 in Part V “What Can We Learn from Beyond the Culture of the Schools?” in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting Students to Learn. Order from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Middle-Room-Frank-Thoms/dp/0615358918.

Image from Thomas B. Fordham Institute