I wrote this over the weekend, emailing it back and forth to myself as I tried to figure out what my thoughts actually were:
I am contemplating leaving the think tank. It's a horrendous thing to think about. In the 8 years I've worked there I have met my husband, married my husband, and had a baby. My coworkers have become my family and have seen me through so much. While at the think tank I learned everything I know about literacy. I went from being a classroom teacher to being a special ed teacher. I fell in love with hundreds of children. I learned what competitive jump roping is and learned all kinds of crazy jump rope moves. I've traveled to international jump rope competitions and traveled to day long jump rope clinics. I've learned how to get parents involved. I've learned about responsive classroom. I've been to three week long RC trainings. I've been to national conferences where I've gotten to present my research at poster presentations. I've learned the concept of teacher research. I completed my masters. I've written two published articles based on my work at the think tank. My opinions on school policy, education reform and testing have been challenged, informed, and grown. I've been trained to have student teachers and I've worked with student teachers/ one I got to watch grow into an incredible teacher who I strive to be like.
I've been given the freedom to create special education programs that meet the needs of my kids. I was able to push my desk into my partner-in-crime's room, creating a easy, true least redrivtive environment flow for our inclusion kids. When it was needed I was able up create my own noncategorical classroom where I could truly meet the needs of my students so that they did not need to be sent to centers.
Back when no one had smart boards my principal let me get one for my first grade classroom even when she was skeptical of the use in the primary grades. Along with my awesome coworkers I've been able to push the envelope on technology in the classroom. I've been truly able to follow my mantra of "it's easier to ask for forgiveness instead of permission" and usually have been given ample support.
Maybe most importantly I've seen what it is like to work for amazing administrators. Before I came to the think tank I was burned by an administration and was contemplating leaving education. I gave it one more try and was truly shown that supportive administrators can make all the difference. Administrators that trust, respect, and encourage their staff are what education needs in order to make changes in students.
So why leave? How can I walk away from a place that has been so amazing for such a long time? I'm not sure I can put it into words. The other day I was in the shower when I realized it was time to go. I cried thinking about leaving and told myself it was crazy to even think about. But I couldn't get the idea out of my head. So I sent my resume off to a brand new school opening this fall. Two weeks later I'm contemplating whether to accept a position at the new school or stay at the think tank.
Perhaps what is encouraging me to leave the most is that I'm in search of a new think tank. When I decided not to finish my doctorate work because I didn't want to leave the classroom I didn't realize how much I missed the academic side of teaching. I love the research aspect- the puzzle of finding the right way to teach certain students, how to best meet a child's needs, how to really improve instruction. Although this year I was trying a brand new program I still found myself missing the intellectual challenge. A brand new school, opened from scratch, is bound to come with the right amount of challenges. Working with an entire staff of people who are energized and ready for the challenge? It is too tempting to dismiss. Plus what other instructional methods can I learn if I leave the think tank? What other understandings of education can I gain from being part of a new school?
The unknown is terrifying. I have an unexplainable distrust of administration until I've gotten to know them. It is hard enough for me to learn to trust the think tanks' new assistant principals (who are fabulous and I now trust completely). How will I learn to trust an entire new admin team? Will the administrators be supportive of teachers in the face of difficult parents? Will they understand different teaching styles? Will they appreciate a "ask forgiveness instead of permission" plan of action that I tend to go by?
I love the laid back culture of the think-tank. Will I need to buy a whole new wardrobe? The think-tank is so family friendly- Will I be expected to work late into the evening? Will it be understood that I have to leave to pick up my daughter from daycare? I love the co-teaching/collaborative model of the think-tank. Will I find something similar at the new school?
One of the aspects I cannot get past is that it is not a Title 1 school. I never, ever thought I would teach at a non-title 1 school. Sitting in their lobby waiting on my interview I thought about just walking out. I never thought I would get to the place where I would interview at a non-Title 1 school. My whole life has been about teaching children who need the most help. I have to remind myself that all children need good teachers, and that even at a non-Title 1 school I can have an impact.
If I stay at the think-tank I am worried I will not continue to be the teacher I can be. I am comfortable here. I know what I am doing. I may be getting a little lazy. I try to always push myself to find new methods but I am pushing myself. Is it time that I was pushed by someone else?
What I fear most about leaving the think-tank is losing my voice. In high school and in college I had no problem going through an entire semester without ever opening my mouth in class. I didn't believe in mandatory participation and would tell my professors that I would prefer to take a B or write extra papers than participate in class. Yet since I entered the think-tank I haven't really been able to stop talking. I tell myself to keep my mouth shut in meetings and I can't do it. I tell myself to let someone else talk and chime in and I have to really watch and monitor myself so that I don't cut someone off. At the think-tank I am excited to talk about education. I am exciting to write about education. I enjoy meetings where we get to brainstorm and find solutions. I LOVE talking about teaching. The high school me would not recognize the current-meeting me. In fact the high school me would probably roll her eyes and moan at the current think-tank me.
I have to somehow have faith that I will not lose my voice at a new school. I maintained a voice in graduate courses. I have to have faith that I will continue to speak up with confidence and excitement when it comes to education.
I'm also worried about losing the ability to blog. I am a better teacher because of my reflection through blogging. I would be devastated to lose that ability. Will the new school's administration be comfortable with teacher bloggers?
But should I stay somewhere out of fear of the unknown or should I take a risk?
I know I will miss the think-tank if I leave. I will miss the amazing co-workers, the children, my classroom, the current policies, the meetings I am comfortable in. I know what I will miss. I can list it. I do not know what I will miss if I stay at the think-tank and don't make the jump. I don't know if I will miss out on excitement and energy. I don't know if I am missing out on growing as a teacher. I don't know if I will miss out on working with another set of amazing coworkers.
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I wrote this over the weekend and after lots of agony I decided to take a leap and leave the think tank. In the last few days I've cried a lot but I've also gotten really, really excited.