Many ask, "Why do you teach?"
One response is to amplify the brilliant voices of those who have something to say. Inspire those who believe they can't and encourage anyone who dreams of something more.
I teach, therefore I am.
After teaching for many years, it's always a good idea to re-evaluate why we do what we do.
Early in my career, I promised myself that if I ever came to a point where I wasn't as passionate as I was on day one, it would be time to move on.
While a newbie in a school of veterans near retirement, I got to see firsthand what it looked like when the light dies out. Many had a different philosophy about teacher to which I couldn't ascribe and I promised myself that if I ever disliked being in the classroom it would be time to move on.
In order to be fair to students and me, I constantly reconnect with my "why" in the classroom. And although my how has changed a lot since day one, my why has remained constant. Ultimately, I teach because I feel a great obligation to inspire change in the world. Every day I have opportunities to encourage that with each child in my classes. Each of them holds answers that I can only hope to engage in a dialogue about and continue to grow as we learn together.
Now at a very different point in my life, I toil with whether or not it's time to leave the classroom. It has been my home for 14 years and has provided a constant source of humility and success and security. I've grown from every child and learning encounter, irrevocably changing me down to my core and although I continue to push the boundaries and comfort zones of myself and students, I question how much I'm actually growing. And I know I can't stay in the classroom because I'm afraid my program will die if I leave it; fear can't keep me from taking risks.
Yearning for something more, I'm ready for a change, one where I can influence more teacher voices and push the boundaries of teacher leadership. Eagerly I seek out a position that sets me up to help even more children turn the volume up.
So what are the options if in a situation like this?
Administration isn't in my future as that kind of leadership isn't ideal for my role in a school. I don't want to be mired with the paperwork that would take me out of the classrooms altogether. Worrying that administration would be too stifling and although leadership positions like this could offer a very different perspective. (Ironically, when I did go into leadership, this is exactly how it felt, but there were many merits, I couldn't see from the classroom.)
It has been my hope to secure a position as a permanent hybrid which would keep me in the classroom for one to two periods a day and then open up the rest of the day to working with teachers and helping them develop their own teaching voices that encourage and engage more student empowerment. It takes a lot of self-confidence to give up the power completely in a classroom and any teacher who is willing can do it.
Because I have had my own unique journey moving away from the traditional, I can empathize with the fears that are aligned with such a shift. Plus I continue to push the boundaries of what is happening in education and because of that, I am uniquely qualified to help others do the same. Taking what they already do well, and amplifying it to ensure deeper student learning seems amazing.
If a position that allows me to do both isn't possible, it may be time to be an instructional coach in a school where I'm still a part of a community, a part of a culture and still effecting change. I'm inclined to stay at least near classrooms where I can co-teach with teachers to implement technology for units or try out standards-based grading or experiential learning.
The why of what is do is an essential part of the authenticity we are able to bring to the table. If our values aren't aligned with what we are doing our effectiveness decreases. Kids and colleagues can tell when we are doing it for "the wrong" reasons. None of us areÂ just a teacher, we have an obligation to do no harm and up the ante of learning every day. This career is a calling and one that can't be ignored by most of us.
Regardless of our role in a school community, we must be deeply connected with the reasons why we participate in this process so we can enact the most transformational moments possible.
Why do you teach? Why keeps you passionate about your calling? Please share
*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in February 2016 and was updated in 2021.