Throughout each educator's life are individual moments, forks in the road where a decision about what comes next must be made.
Often at the beginning of our careers, the frustration of unpreparedness and challenges of the day-to-day lead some to question their very choice to teach.
Although it may be a calling, it is not one without many busy signals or wrong numbers. So we stand, ready to choose whether to persist and have faith in the journey, or we defect and return to other pastures.
Those with the faith, continue forward, not without issue, but focused more on the benefits and returns of touching student lives and growing as professionals. They dig deeper. They read. They network and grow becoming better versions of the self they shed at the first fork.
Until the journey leads them to their middle career. This road has a different fork. The challenges are no longer that of unknowing, but of reform. We know what happens in the classroom and can orchestrate and navigate the uncertain roads of autonomy. Wanting more for our students, we resist the short-term initiatives, we push back no longer afraid of what will happen to us because we are focused more on what the system is doing to our kids. The daily travesty of lack of resources, or poorly planned programs brings us to fight those whose voices aren't loud enough.
The bullhorn isn't only for the kids, it's for us and our colleagues and we must decide. Do we remain in the classroom, impacting the wonderful students in small numbers, or do we transcend the walls of our schools and look bigger?
Middle career teachers at the fork in the road have experience and know-how, passion and are able to deliver on major change. So when is it appropriate to make the next decision? Do we stay the course and keep to the classroom for another five to 10 years or do we move on?
Moving on can take many different forms after 12-15 years. Perhaps we study to become more effective school leaders in administration or instructional leaders, helping our colleagues grow their chops, or do we leave the school setting altogether?
Toiling with these questions often, personally, I've worried if my impact would wane once I've left the classroom. The fear of losing "my touch" has kept me in there, but I'm no longer confined to four walls as I've expanded my PLN through social networks and writing. Those connections and experiences have offered more insight and growth, but it has also compounded my desire for change.
How long do we spend in the spaces we've called home for so long before we decide it's time to make a big change?
Of course, we've spent our time with Venn diagrams and pro and con lists, weighing the good and bad in meaningful ways, but mostly we're waiting for some kind of sign.
Both fearful to leave the comfortable and even more fearful of getting stale or bored. Boredom is where passion goes to die.
But what if, all this questioning and waiting is the sign?
Only you can know, but there is a big education world out there and sometimes it's better to take the risk.
Which road will you take when it comes time to make the choice? Perhaps change is in the air... Thoughts?
*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in February 2016