My path has been winding and often uncertain, but I love teaching and believe so strongly in the education of children that I've stayed in a district that has not always treated me well. As a para I was not generally treated as an equal because I didn't yet have a degree in education, but I continued on my path to complete my degree as I believed that teaching was the most important job I could do with my life. For my first year as a classroom teacher I was hired about a month into the school year and not given a mentor teacher to support me or even an updated copy of my school's policies and procedures to guide me. When schedules were built there were actually a few "veteran" teachers that were openly rude to me because I had taken all their "good kids." For my second year as a teacher I was told by the district that I would not be getting the annual raise that "all" teachers received because I technically hadn't taught a whole year since I was hired a month into the prior school year. But outside of that my second, third and fourth years of teaching went relatively well. I had an administrative staff that supported me as a teacher as well as a team of teachers that worked well together to help educate our children and I was able to teach in a problem-based environment and integrate almost all the technology I wanted into my instruction. Then I was given the opportunity to work at the district level as an instructional technology specialist. This was by far the best three years of my teaching career! I was completing my master's degree in educational technology and working with an amazing group of educators. Then the economy crashed and I lost my job. I was the last person hired by three days and after three years in this position, the district just cut my job without even trying to find a position for me that might have been open due to attrition. "Luckily," I was "allowed" to apply for jobs that were supposed to be listed as "in-district applicants only." They treated it like that was a really big deal - that a person that had devoted themselves to the district for 8 years would be given such a privilege as to apply for jobs within the district before someone who had never worked a day within our district. But, I still felt that I could positively affect change in education, so I took a job as a data leader and site technology specialist at a middle school within our district. In this position I worked on a tightly-knit leadership team, collaborated with some really fantastic instructional coaches and really felt that I was helping to make some positive changes within the school structure. But at the end of that year the school was restructured due to not making 'Annual Yearly Progress' on the standardized tests (don't even get me started on this topic) and was told that my services were no longer desired at Jardine. At this point the district placed me at another school without interviewing me, without the principal meeting me and without asking me if I even wanted to teach there. But off to Truesdell I went, where I learned throughout the school year that after teaching adults for four years I just really no longer had the ability properly to teach 6th graders - they were just too young. So I was faced with a dilemma: stay at a school where I would likely not be happy or try to get a job at yet another school within the school district. I chose to apply for a job as a data leader at a high school and also as an educational technology specialist (again) as there were openings for my old position. Sadly, I was not even offered an interview for the technology specialist position because of my "instability within the district" and my "lack of recent classroom experience." But in the end, I was very excited to be offered the job as a data leader because not only would I be working with some amazing educational leaders that I had known from prior jobs within the district, but also because my last year of sixth graders from my first year teaching were to be seniors at this high school. It's been difficult adjusting to high school from dress code to procedures to general student behaviors. It has, however, been utterly wonderful seeing my little sixth graders approach adulthood!
But now, I have been offered a job at Cargill doing IT work (in other words utilizing the master's degree which I worked so hard to obtain) and I can't turn it down. Why? In a word: stability. The education system seems to be moving in a direction that goes against my core beliefs as a teacher. We're emphasizing test scores rather than creative, critical thinking skills. We're de-emphasizing technology integration in a time where almost everyone seems to have a computer in their pocket at all times. We're pushing all of our students to the middle, stifling creativity and we're not graduating any more students that when I was high school. Oh, and did I mention that for the last four years I have made less money than the year prior and each Spring have had to worry if my job would be cut again?
So it is with highly mixed emotions that I leave the district in two days. One minute I'm excited for the new opportunity in my life and the next I feel like a complete sell-out for leaving education. Last week I had to leave a pep assembly twice to cry because I was watching "my kids" perform for the last time. I've worked with some really amazing and passionate people and even more importantly, I have been a part of some really great kids' lives. I know that this is the right move for me and my family and still hope to teach some adjunct college courses so that I can continue to impact students, but I am quite sure I'll shed more tears over the next few weeks as I come to the final realization that I will no longer be able to introduce myself as a "teacher."