Today another class graduated, and I feel a mix of proud, tired, nostalgic, hopeful, and sad. This time, however, I find myself turning my attention to teachers I work with, more than to students.
This week I learned that two of my fellow teachers are stepping away from teaching to work on curriculum. I am happy for them, and excited to see what they will do, but I pause to reflect on my own past.
After I had been teaching full time for a few years, I moved into a non-teaching role, managing and coaching teachers. I jumped at it despite being unprepared: my school trained me in management (which I enjoyed) and teacher coaching (which I was very skeptical about). I was tired of the grind of teaching, and moving into a management role seemed like a good way to support teachers.
Ultimately school management burned me out in a way that teaching never has. I eventually left that school to take an industry job, only to return to teaching after a year. These have easily been the most productive and effective teaching years of my career—thanks to my time spent observing and coaching other teachers; training sessions I partcipated in to prepare for managing teachers; and collaborations with co-teachers and TAs who have taught, challenged, and inspired me.
At my current school, most of the teachers stay for only a year or two. One promising teacher I worked with burned out after six months and moved into an administrative role; most others have left the school and returned to industry practice. The past year I’ve noticed less turnover of teachers. I think many have simply stayed to avoid searching for a job during a pandemic. (The irony that we prepare students for a job search during the same pandemic is not lost on me.) I find myself wishing that the teachers who have stayed may discover that the job gets easier and more rewarding, and stick with it.
I’m hopeful that my colleagues who are moving to work on curriculum will feel challenged, will learn and grow in new and unexpected ways, and that they will find approaches that help our school’s teachers and students.
But in my heart I hope that they will find their way back to teaching.