Leaving My Classroom for a New K12 Adventure
A MiddleWeb Blog
As soon as I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. The very first conversation I had with my college academic advisor ended with a plan for my next four years because there was no question about the career I would pursue once I finished my undergraduate degree.
Most of the credit for my interest in teaching goes to my third and fifth grade teachers. I also can’t forget several high school teachers I encountered who helped me realize that I wanted to impact young lives like these master educators had impacted mine.
This fall, after two decades teaching, I’ve begun a different adventure, and I’m impacting students more indirectly (but in much larger numbers) through the work I now do.
Upfront, I want to apologize if this blog post seems all over the place. Please forgive me as I provide context for this next stage in my education journey and say a few parting words to my students. I know they read what I write here because they’ve told me they do.
21 years of learning adventures
I spent 21 years in the classroom, and I don’t regret one day of it. I loved my students as if they were my own children. One of the greatest aspects about teaching was that every day was different and a new adventure. I am not sure if my students ever knew it, but I learned just as much from them as they did from me.
At the end of September, I stepped out of the classroom and began working as a Manager of Educational Partnerships for the Center for the Collaborative Classroom, a non-profit founded in 1980 with a current mission to empower educators “to grow their teaching practices, build school community, and create the conditions for authentic, student-centered learning.”
I have been on my new journey for exactly five weeks, and I love my new colleagues and the organization I am now a part of.
Why I’ve made this shift
In the past months since I left teaching in August, I’ve had many people ask me why I stopped teaching, including past students and some who expected to be in my classroom this fall. There are many reasons for my departure. I will stay professional and leave some details out of this blog post.
Bottom line, I wasn’t happy with the twists and turns education has been taking the last few years, and the inequalities in our schools that have been brought to the surface more starkly due to the pandemic.
More than ever, I firmly believe in the curriculum and the relationship building the Center for the Collaborative Classroom has been advocating and implementing in forward-thinking schools who understand the need to put their students front and center.
Before I highlight some specifics about what drew me to CCC, I want to say this to my students:
I think about you and miss you every day. Please know that my departure from the classroom is not your fault in any way. The decision for me to leave was long overdue. Unfortunately, the everyday politics students don’t see played a hand, but also it was time for me to advance my career and make an impact on education in a different way.
For the past 11 years I have been part of the Chippewa River Writing Project. During that time, I was able to work with educators from across the nation to become a better teacher of writing, and to learn how different school districts manage English curriculum.
I grew to love the work I did with teachers beyond our own small community. So when the opportunity came for me to work with districts across the state of Michigan and build relationships with educators through the Center’s collaborative programs, I couldn’t pass it up.
There are many great teachers out there, and I wish all of my former students the best. You will become stronger individuals through this pandemic. Keep working hard. Hard work does pay off, even if it takes some time. Let’s stay in touch.
School from a new perspective
Though I miss my students (and some of my colleagues), I am gaining a new perspective on what it means to have good curriculum in schools and a focus on teaching and learning that develops the whole child. The work I do allows me to reach out and work with districts to deliver curriculum that can help every student, no matter where they are academically.
CCC’s innovative programs are not only evidence-based, but blend social-emotional learning into every aspect of school life. You can read more about CCC’s history, principles and impact here – and some of the innovative programs I’m most excited about here.
CCC is dedicated to building long-lasting relationships with our school and district partners, and that is one of my core responsibilities I’m most excited about.
Making every student successful
Although I’ve left the classroom, I am very much involved with K-12 education and happy that I will still be making an impact on students’ lives. It may be more indirectly, but I am working for an organization that believes in making every student successful through the programs they offer and not just selling a product or serving a subset of our students.
Even though I am not teaching, I will still be blogging and contributing to the middle school conversation any chance I get. I believe my experience over the past 21 years could help others, and that is what I love to do, no matter the context or format.
Please check out my podcast Middle School Hallways, available wherever you get your podcasts. I will still be publishing episodes once a month. Here is my most recent episode where I interview my frequent co-author, Dr. Troy Hicks, a writing professor and teacher educator dedicated to the principles of student empowerment.