powerful moments in education
Let’s be clear.
Classroom teaching exists in its own dimension. The quantity of information processing and emotion managing that occurs within a classroom teacher’s mind, heart and soul throughout the day is unreal. You only know what that means if you have done it and if haven’t- you can take my word. I certainly place the population that makes classroom teachers at a level of esteem that few other professions rival. It’s the most amazing profession- full of challenges, every day brings something unexpected, children with captivating ideas and smiles.
So when I see people and they smile brightly, and with a hint of envy ask, “So you’re off for the summer now, right?” I am not quite sure what to say. In simplest terms, I could respond:
“Well, I’m not going back next year so this summer is a little different I suppose.” (vague)
….which returns an answer along the lines of:
“What? I thought you loved it!”
Or this conversation:
“Sort of…I’m sort of a teacher-gone-rogue right now, preparing to do more consulting for now.”
…which returns a reply along the lines of:
“Oh. Well, that sounds exciting!” (facial expression working to hide confusion, and a million questions of I wonder what happened?)
Or my favorite response: “Oh, you’re going to stay home?” GOD NO. (I have 1,000% respect for stay-at-home-parents. You are amazing in your professions. But just as I am not cut out to be a CEO of an oil company, I am not cut out to be a SAHM.)
I’m not even going include the conversations with my husband, who has an amazing job (as did I) and will be there until he retires, though I am sure you can hear the bantering about “who on earth leaves a secure job” or “you don’t quit your job before you have a new one”. I’m not going to say I don’t agree with those statements the majority of the time, but I defer to a statement my opening paragraph, you only know if you’ve been there.
I’ve known for a few years that I was on a path to becoming the poster child for burnout, but was not really willing to alter my practice. I found it too important to follow my passions in education so I would be better equipped to help my students follow their own. My ability to function in high gear was fueled by my wish to make the school experience exceptional for students and for any teacher with whom I worked alongside. I couldn’t contain my excitement for a new book, strategy, framework, template or digital tool. And so I didn’t contain myself. It’s what works for me.
It’s not really fair to myself to say I burned out, I don’t think, at least my friend and colleague Barb Cutting would say so. I would say that this car (go cart?) I was driving reached its time and I needed a new one. Not a better one, not a faster one, not a newer one, just one that could go different places. I’m not moving up OR moving on, I am simply moving. You see, I reached this place where the weather in education was starting to get to me, but I don’t run from problems, I actually run directly IN to them. How could I be a part of the change I envision from my classroom? For the last few years, I was able to accept that, by honing my craft and continuing to collaborate and network with teachers, I WAS a part of the change. But then I gave birth to my sweet Norah and something had to go. Not my favorite crossroads.
Instead of looking at it as “leaving the classroom”, I redubbed it “getting into more classroomS plural” in my mind. I want to badly to be out there working with teachers- both learning from them and teaching them, guiding new and/or willing teachers to explore new approaches. There was no way to do this while remaining my classroom, so I resigned from my coveted position in a great school with fascinating kids, an incredible staff and a community whom I know well and was supportive of me. My time is now consumed with developing my ideas, reading and learning, and planting seeds for my consulting business.
I do feel I will return to the classroom someday and look forward to see how I have grown when I get to that point. It’s going to be an interesting year. A year of building and exploring and SO much learning. This post is my closure, a post that has been ruminating in my heart and soul for months, and with it I can now unpack my classroom that has been strewn across my living room floor for 2 weeks. It was the ultimate Soul Striker- it was a moment I knew that shift happens and my shift was here. I’ll keep you posted on what is to come. Surely I will link this blog with my new consulting site and continue writing-
Because soul striking moments do not resign.
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Well said my dear. My worry is that you are just the beginning of what could be a mass exodus from the classroom. WE should all be doing more to keep amazing educators, like yourself, in places where growth is an automatic extension of what we all do.
We shall get together soon!
I know- don’t worry! (says the woman who just “left” the classroom) A said a few years ago, actually it may have been in a post here, that I needed to be in public school, a part of the change. I agree with you that so many of us that stray belong in the classroom. I do belong there. I have this, hopefully not too idealistic, idea that people like me in different roles can help to support and keep teachers in place. I’ll let you know how it goes!
In the meantime…I have a gift certificate for some yummy food in your town. Let’s make plans soon!