So I’ve spent the past several years watching as many of my friends have left the classroom to go do some sort of role outside of the immediate school environment, such as private consulting, joining a non-profit, joining or founding an edtech startup, or stepping up into district administration roles.
Watching, and fretting.
Because these teachers were all in the good to great range, I’ve always felt as if it’s a real loss to their students in some way, but also a loss to the profession.
I’m a big believer in teacher leadership, and was proud this past year to join the NEA’s Teacher Leadership Initiative, which emphasized that teachers embedded in schools should be actively leading change and improvement in their classrooms, teams, schools, and districts.
So every step of the way, as I’ve seen yet another great teacher leave their school for some fresher waters, I’ve felt a pang of regret.
And yet, here I am, one week away from taking my new job as a Professional Learning Specialist for the Massachusetts Teachers Association. As I’ve described on Edutopia, I have so many feels about this major change in my life. [full disclosure: I contract with Edutopia to do a few hours of Community Faciliation a week]
While I can’t speak for everybody else who’s left the classroom, for me, the decision to leave, while not an easy one, really came down to one thing.
The MTA is a professional union with 113,000 members. They have a lot of students. If I can improve professional development for even a small percentage of teachers in the state, I can help a lot of students by proxy.
The toughest part of the decision, of course, is that layer of separation now between me and the students. I have always said that directly working with students is the best part of the job, and that continues to be true. But if I have the chance to help more of them, even if it means not having them in my classroom every day? Well, I have to take that opportunity when it’s offered to me.
I do have one other, very personal reason for taking the job. Make that two others.
I’ve made no bones about my feelings that we are somehow failing our students in a very real and fundamental way. While the school reform crowd places lots of blame on teachers, but only ever comes up with punitive methods for handling it, I place most of the blame on systems and structures, whether it be the way schools are designed and run or societal.
Back when my babies were born, I started joking around that I now had five years to try and rebuild public education. But at some point, it wasn’t very funny to me any more, but more like a real challenge that I had to find a way to work on.
Well, this job is a part of that. I’m going to take my skill set, networks, and passions, and try to pull them together into something that will help build better professional learning opportunities for our teachers. That’s how I can contribute. And I can work together with other people at the MTA, sharing my ideas for where our systems are failing and finding ways we can improve them or remake them.
I’ll spend some more blog posts unpacking different things I’ve been thinking about this summer as I prep for my new job, and I’ll share about my progress along the way. [public commitment!]
So yeah, I’m leaving the classroom. I’m amazingly anxious about it on many levels. But I’m incredibly excited to see what I can get done.
Let’s get to work.