Three Reasons I Stayed a Teacher
I have often thought about why I stayed in teaching after my first year. I remember when I moved from private school to public school after my first year. Some of the private school’s donors told me I was crazy to go to public school. I figured it couldn’t be any worse than where I was. My first year left me frazzled and defeated. I had no intention of staying in teaching for long. Like many new teachers to that district, they placed me in an urban school. It could have been a repeat of my first year. It could have gone so wrong. I was already so worn out. I could have been like so many other educators and burned out quickly. But, I didn’t. I thrived. How was I one of the 50% of teachers that stayed?
- Professional Development- I was hired by a public school district in April and in July I was in training, before my official start date, and I was paid for my time. From the start the district invested in my growth as a professional. I was not an education major. I craved conversations on pedagogy and workshop model and anchor texts. I tried every strategy I learned about. I was sent to conferences. I showed up every Saturday for training offered by the union. I’ve always loved to learn, but this time I was learning and immediately implementing what I learned. I was empowered and equipped. That feeling of being frazzled and defeated was gone and I found real success in my classroom.
- Collaboration- I was no longer the lone 5th grade teacher. I had the benefit and support of a team on my grade level. One of them was right next door and we shared a pass-thru door. On my breaks I could pop my head in to vent or celebrate the small victories I had in my classroom each day. I planned with them. We discussed lesson ideas and assessments. We shared resources. We had lunch together and chatted at recess. This was before we had heard of a Professional Learning Community. We didn’t know who DuFour was; we didn’t know protocols; we didn’t take notes during our team meetings. The relationships we built as a team held us up on the rough days. It made us strive to do more and do better.
- Cheerleaders- Now that I think back, I was pretty lucky to have a few people in my school, outside of my classroom and my grade level, who were my champions early on. I spent a lot of time in our reading resource room with the reading coaches and assistant principal. I asked a lot of questions. I brought my problems to them. They made me laugh. They made me believe in my ability as a teacher. They pointed out my strengths and gave me advice. They never discouraged any of my harebrained classroom schemes (and I’m sure there were plenty!). They backed me up, one of them literally running to my classroom when a hostile parent made their way into my room. My cheerleaders were amazing educators, educators I looked up to, and wanted to be more like. They were committed to our students. It was through them that I saw my career path could be in education. I had education heroes I could look up to.
So, the gentleman who told me I was crazy to move to a public school, the donor from the private school where I worked my first year, was so mistaken. My years in public school made me the educator I am today. And, after my first year in public school, I decided to stay for another year, and another, and another, and the rest is history. I used to struggle on some days and wonder if I should have followed my museum studies/humanities/writing path (even up to a year or two ago). I have found incredible ways to weave my passions into my work today and I have made peace with my decision. But, that’s another blog post!