One of my seniors asked last week if the rumors were true and that I am retiring.
Clearly, this youngster either doesn’t understand what retirement is OR has grossly mis-estimated my age (I’m knocking on 37).
While I’d love it if teaching were such a lucrative career that I could retire before age 40, it is nonetheless true that I have made the choice to leave the classroom after this year.
For the last three years, I’ve tried to live up to the ideal that a teacher can lead without having to leave. In this hybrid role “half in, half out,” I’ve learned so much. I still believe that this model is the ideal: systems should afford teachers the opportunity to still lead their own classrooms while also being agents of change in their school or district. For the last three years, I’ve been in such a hybrid role, teaching in the afternoons two or three periods, but spending my mornings attempting to (and I think, successfully) influencing local policy related to teacher evaluations and professional development, as well as supporting teachers in their practice.
And these three “hybrid role” years have been the toughest three years of my career. My attention has been divided and never once have I had one full week where I felt like I was doing adequate service to both roles at the same time (I wrote recently about this, even doling out what I felt were the three key needs for a successful hybrid role). Trudging forward and never feeling successful at anything is not a great way to live from day to day, so I made the decision shortly after that post: in 2015-16, I needed to choose…one or the other, not both. The Both, for me personally, was too much, even if in principle it is exactly what I believe should eventually become systematized for teacher leadership and empowerment.
There are many teacher stories of “why I’m leaving” that circulate on social media, featuring overworked, unsupported, and under-appreciated teachers who make the painful decision to leave the profession altogether. That’s not where I am professionally. Even with standards and testing and new evaluations and unsupportive public policy, I still love teaching. However, whatever work I choose to do, I want to do it well. That’s the feeling I haven’t had these last few years in the split role. Others can and do find success inhabiting both roles simultaneously, and those others are capable of amazing things. For me, the split is not sustainable mentally or physically. One or the other; in or out. Two equally appealing options.
It was not an easy choice. Because of various things, my district ended up posting a full-time TOSA job for 2015-16, I applied for and was offered the position. Next year, I’ll be a full-time TOSA, focusing on building a K-12 new teacher induction program (where no formal new-teacher support has existed in the past) and developing teacher leadership systems in our district’s new pathways model, wherein among other things teachers in hybrid roles will be supported toward success. Simply put, my role is all about cultivating and empowering teachers. Little by little, despite the fear of the unknown, I’m getting more and more excited about the potential of what this job might be able to do.
And then I have days in the classroom like I had this last week, listening to my seniors (who for all intents and purposes are long since done with this school business) give each other feedback on their practice speeches for their culminating Senior Project presentations that they will do before a panel of community members. I heard in their statements things I had taught them; little things, probably not all that meaningful, but still, they were doing what I had taught them to do. It’s hard to explain that feeling.
Then after most of the period of sustained focus, the class gradually got a little rambunctious and I (only half-jokingly) threatened to slam their 18-year-old selves into a seating chart if they didn’t get their over-sized-kindergartener-behavior under control.
We laughed, the bell rang, they left.
I am definitely going to miss it.