Friday, June 10, 2016

Jumping Off

I'm about to close out on my 13th year of teaching. It does not seem possible it has been that long because in so many ways I feel like I am still a recent college graduate, excited to start on my adventures in teaching but with so much to learn.

Yet a lot has happened in those 13 years and I've been able to see many different facets in the field of education. I've taught in three different schools. I've had my own general education classroom, and my own special education classroom. I've supported children in inclusion classrooms in every grade but second. I've been the local screening chair, which is a fancy title for dealing with the paperwork side of the special education eligibility process within my school. I worked at a brand new school and experienced what it is like to open a new building.

Somewhere in there something changed. I can't put my finger on what it was, or when it happened. But something - maybe me, maybe the profession - is very different than in was when I entered the field 13 years ago.

So after some nail-biting months, long talks about the future, what I want out of life, and how to get there, I decided that after this school year I will be taking a leave of absence from teaching. I'm not finished with teaching or education, at least, I don't think so.

Like many teachers out there I have a love/hate relationship with teaching. The field has changed considerably in the last 13 years and is very different than when I entered the profession. There is a different feel in the day to day life of a school. The thing is (and I realize this makes me different than many of the teachers out there who write public "I'm quitting" letters) I'm not sure the change is all that bad. We should be asking the tough questions about why children are not learning, and we should be making sure every single child is working on grade level, or at least has a plan to get them there. I have seen many positive changes at my current school that involve practices that did not exist in the field ten years ago. My struggle is that I'm not sure where my role in these changes should be or if I fit here at all.

I continue to love working with children. I LOVE teaching children to read and I love working with children with unique needs. I love teaching children social skills and emotional regulation. I love creating behavior plans, helping teachers manage behaviors in their classroom, and building positive communities within classrooms. I don't intend to use the word 'love' lightly here either. I mean it. I love these aspects of my day. I did not go to law school because I knew I loved these things. I knew I wanted to wake up everyday and go to a job I loved instead of a job that could provide financial security and a respectful social status. But now I'm not sure I can say I love coming to work every day.

My head has been swimming with questions. Is it me or the profession? Has being a mom changed my daily passion toward my job? Is teaching a job I will only enjoy if I can put in 12 hour days? Did the profession change in a way I no longer am comfortable with my introverted habits? Has what I wanted out of life changed? Why am I no longer fulfilled by what I am doing? What's missing? Am I asking too much from a job? Should I be happy with a job that provides a steady income and allows me to help others? Is it fair to ask for more?

I know I want to go back and get my PhD, but I am not sure exactly in what area of education or which school. I've tried to figure that out while working and taking care of my girls but I haven't been overly successful with that search. I need time.

What else is out there?

I have different projects in the works. I am working with some amazing people and we hope to have some social skills groups and music/literacy programs up and running this summer and next fall. (If you live in the Northern Virginia area and are interested in these please let me know!) I am continuing to provide sensory storytimes at a local library and have started a newsletter to give parents additional ways to engage their children in learning.

Next year will be my gap year where I can follow different projects to see what I enjoy and what doesn't quite do it for me. Perhaps in a year I will be back at my school, appreciating the structure and routine of employment (not to mention the secure paycheck), loving the kids and the teamwork a school provides. Or perhaps I will enroll in a PhD program, or find another alternative I can't even dream up right now.


Snippety Gibbet said...

Good for you! This sounds like an exciting and worthwhile plan. Jan

Teacher gardener said...

I've been teaching 27 years and you're right, the profession has changed a lot. I'm asking the same questions. What else is out there?? I'm trying to find out. After 19 yrs in 6th grade, I was given a "choice" to go to 3rd. I'm not commenting on FB bc I don't want my admin to see this or find out. You understand.

Katie said...

I started reading your blog when I was a first year teacher. You gave such an informative view into the world of special education for this regular ed teacher. I also get a lot of great literacy ideas for my toddler from your newsletter. Congrats on taking your next steps, and I hope that you will keep up with this blog! I'd love to hear about your new adventures.

Jenny said...

I love that you are calling this your gap year. What a brilliant perspective to take as you enter this period. I can't wait to see where you go and what you do. I have no doubt it will all serve children and be groundbreaking.

Sylvia Miller said...

Peter told us about some of your ideas. As a home schooling mama, it is exciting to see where you might go with this. Dealing with special needs at home can be frustrating and finding resources confusing. Following your blog.