Not as wise as I think, perhaps…


This post sits in my Drafts folder, mocking irony that I lack the…what is it, the word? You know, when you have drive and motivation? Oh yeah. Ambition. This question of ambition and professional growth stalks my thoughts, and has for some time now. A convergence of colleagues who have gone onto do great things haunts my thoughts before I sleep, and a cadre of new colleagues who bring a wide range of experience and personalities have me feeling squarely middle. Not a comfortable spot for the oldest sibling, first to do, first to go, fight, trail blaze, etc. Occasionally, I feel like I should be doing more.

What seems to be the problem, ma’am?

Identifying the areas of discomfort and symptoms: when a colleague is touted as the “it” person or the “rock star,” and I’ve been asked if I know this person–yes. When I ask a mentor if I can present great lessons, she skillfully evades the question, so much so I am feeling ‘swiped right.’ (Or is it ‘swipe left?’ Not familiar with Tinder and kids these days and their fandoogled dating apps, you know.) Neither fish nor fowl these days, I have no title, no deeds, no lands. Second-guessing my professional path, I wonder did I get my National Boards too soon? Peak too early? Should I have taken that job?* Why didn’t that group choose me?! 

Don’t put that on a resume…

Perhaps coming into the teaching profession after working in other careers and capacities affects one’s perspective. We all carry the unwritten life resume, our true curricula vitae of our accomplishments and skills: do people know who turned me away that once a woman believed in me so much, not only did she send me to Hamburg to complete the construction and shipping of an important client’s trade-show materials, but I managed to communicate with kindness and diplomacy to workers who didn’t understand English, nor (to my shame) their German? Do they know about the time I stood up for myself after the birth of my first son to allegations of misusing my one month of unpaid maternity leave? (Yes, one month. Yes, he was a twelve-pound baby. Yes, I cried but stated my case.) Or how about the time when I was a busgirl at a Mongolian Grill at 13, and spilled hot tea water on myself but calmly went from the patrons back to the wait-station, ran cold water on my arm and went back to work?

No, they don’t, but they don’t need to. The thing I’m learning the hard way is the teaching profession doesn’t have a lot of options that aren’t linear: 1. Stay teaching 2. Become (or try to) an instructional coach 3. Go into administration. All of these are admirable and worthy–but are they enough?

But I can’t be the only one who has ever felt this way. There must be others who feel cramped in their current positions/roles, and take stock of the ‘what’s next?’ question with gusto. For some it must seem ordained, for others, a scrappy can-do attitude. (I’m more of the latter: roll-up-shirt-sleeves-and-create!) And perhaps it is my creativity and powers of reflection that sustain me, just as they sustain many teachers.

But shine a little light: the moment came during Open House a few weeks ago: my projector’s software was still buggy and frizzed out on me, so for some groups of parents I had to improvise, big time. And I always speak from both my mind and my heart, and shared with the parents my philosophy, that I never lose sight that their child is someone’s baby. And in that moment they knew I loved their children, which I do, and want the best for them, just as for my own sons. I do have purpose, and this is as big of an honor as I could ever ask for.

Sign up. Show up. 

We (women quite often) feel multiple pressure points: from our spouses, children, and our own creative lives. Those voices, those dang voices: Did you plan dinner? Finish grading? Plan that lesson? Write your novel? Everything feels equal and urgent. Our identities are often wrapped up in so many other roles, that when we feel untethered by one of our responsibilities shifting we lose stability, and then fill the void with that seemingly unanswerable question of “What’s next?”

Well, for me: always learning. Trying a new approach. Keeping an open mind. And yes, perhaps writing that novel. If the slots of power are filled, that’s okay, and has always been okay. The artisan still finds a space to create and think–if I am incapable of that, then perhaps a position of leadership isn’t meant for me at this time. Would I like to help train new teachers? Yes, of course. I believe I have something to offer, many things. But as I know for our students, the software avails itself to the great equalizer of opportunity: write, create, and share. Then you’re welcome to come to my table.

So, my menu for this weekend:

  • Voices from the Grave – historical fiction writing unit
  • Its counterpart, Box of Destiny – role playing unit
  • CCSS Reading Literary Text: how does understanding literary devices/terms help inform our understanding?
  • Who is here first, who comes after: how it matters and why?

Some professional resources I am exploring:

ISTE: International Society for Technology in Education: I am planning going to the June conference if at all possible.

TpT: Teachers Pay Teachers: May throw some lessons on there and see if anyone else needs/wants them.

Ph.D: I want to be Dr. Love. There. I said it.

I always give myself goals, too, my own little life units. Coincidentally, John Spencer wrote something about that today. This season’s goal is to master Canvas, once my district gets the bugs out of it. Funny –right about 1986 I was ‘mastering canvases’ when getting my Fine Arts degree. Things come around.

*Postscript: No –I am one lucky teacher at the moment.