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Friday, January 1, 2016

My New Year's Epiphany: Every New Beginning Starts with an Ending

How I feel when change happens

The 2014-2015 school year ended with an unexpected change in my career path. My principal, Ms. Papertrail (not her real name), called me into her office for an impromptu meeting during the last week of school.

I don't care how old a person is...a meeting in the principal's office is always a little unsettling. I left her office feeling blindsided by the changes she was making to my schedule for the upcoming 2015-2016 school year.

I confess that change is difficult for me. I like routine. I don't like surprises. I am overly analytical and avoid knee-jerk reactions (which is what it felt like) when twenty-four-hours later I was scripting a resignation letter to my principal and the school board president.

(My husband assured me that we could live on one salary. I also had my grandparents' inheritance). I realize that this would not have been an option for me if we were dependent on my teacher salary alone.

Side bar: It goes without saying that teachers' salaries should be comparable to those of doctors and lawyers. In my opinion, education should be at the top of our nations' agenda! Meager salaries are a reason for the turnover rate of exceptional teachers who burn out within a few years of teaching and/or are not able to live off of their salary and find another career that pays more.

Obviously, I didn't become a teacher for the pay. I became a teacher because I believe this is what I was born to do.

Pretending to be a teacher
In the 60's and early 70's girls had few career choices. We could teach, be a secretary, nurse, or a flight attendant. As I reminisce over old photos taken of me when I was a little girl, I played school. Period.

I had a classroom in my Seattle basement where our church would sometimes hold Bible Studies. I even had the latest in technology; an overhead projector!

The downside was that the basement was unfinished and I had to have extended winter breaks because my parents insisted that it was "too cold" and wondered why I couldn't teach in my room.

I loved my school teachers and by third grade I had made the choice that I wanted to be a teacher.

The twists and turns of life are sometimes frustrating. But I believe that endings are points of new beginnings.

A door opened for me to attend school full time in pursuit of a Ph.D. in reading. I was hired as a GA (graduate assistant) and asked to teach one undergraduate literacy course. What I learned is that teaching is something some people are born to do.

It's in their nature.

Within the first few weeks of the semester, I could spot the students who had the natural drive to teach. These were the students who created relationships with their practicum students; excelled on written reflections; and extended their learning by building professional networks.

I even had a couple of students who began professional Twitter accounts! Undergraduate students who wanted to become teachers so they could "have summers off" or because it would "be fun" will most likely not make it. If they do get a job it will be because of connections and not passion.

As we welcome in 2016, it is my hope that the doors that close will guide you to find a new direction: one that is a right fit for you.

Confession Reflection:
  • Why did you become an educator? Be honest.
  • What other countries (outside of the United States) are attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers?
  • How can principals/administrators identify and move teachers towards their professional career goals?
  • Why is transparency important for both administrators and educators?

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