Teachers have been massively emigrated in the last three years. We see a lot of stories about teachers leaving and how the profession is toxic. But despite the challenges, last year I chose to return to the classroom after a six-year hiatus. What happened here?
Helpful instead of helpless …
When the school closed in March 2020, I felt helpless like many others. I never imagined in my lifetime that schools would have to change so much overnight. I began to read about inspired teachers who were taking on the challenge of serving our children. Feeling excited and inspired, I updated my resume and started interviewing for a teaching job. I’m nervous! I was out of the classroom for six years. When I tell people what I’m doing, they look at me like I’m crazy, and maybe I’m, but I know this: I wanted to be helpful instead of feeling helpless.
A community that cares.
After I quit teaching, I worked from a distance. At first I appreciated the flexibility. I could adjust my schedule, which means I don’t have to get sub when I take my son to the doctor, and I can wear jeans (and even PJs!). Although these benefits were exciting at first, they lost their appeal when the covid was attacked. The line between home and school was blurred. I find myself working harder and spending more time on screen. There were days when, without email or slack messages, I didn’t talk to a coworker. I missed work at a school where I was part of a community I missed seeing the impact of my work when a student had an aha moment or thanked me for my lesson. Although teaching is not flexible, and some very difficult days have passed, I know I am not alone. Every day I see that in our school we are going to do our best to help our students feel safe and cared for so that they can learn. I care about those who are part of a community.
Transferable skills transfer.
By the time I left the classroom in 2015, schools had just started using the Learning Management System, Chromebooks and iPads. Over the next six years, I worked in private educational institutions to facilitate teacher coaching, designing and professional development, and to write about education. Through this work, I learned many new skills that prepared me for epidemic learning: I was a zoom expert, and I worked asynchronously every day. I was not teaching, but I was learning how to navigate in a practical way. If you leave or plan to leave the classroom, know that you can always come back and when you do, you will come back stronger. It was my time away from the classroom to remember why I became a teacher in the first place, and the changes I wanted to make, I did not leave again. Working for a private company has helped me learn how to set boundaries, advocate for myself, and communicate with teaching rather than calling. I’m a healthy and happy teacher because I can now say “I want to help, but I can’t” and “I don’t work outside of my contract time.”
An investment for our future …
I am not ignorant of what is meant by teacher in our society. We are underpaid, overworked and checking. We’re worried about getting shot at school, getting covid or giving it to our families, and many of us have two things to do to get over it. One of the reasons I left the classroom in the first place was because my salary just covered day-care costs. I was annoyed that I was taking better care of other people’s children than my own. I still feel this way from time to time, but I can see the bigger picture: our children are our future. For many students, school is the only place where they feel safe and know that they will have food to eat and an adult to take care of and teach them. How can I expect teachers to keep showing up for my kids and not do the same for their kids? It takes a village, and at the end of the day, it’s important to me to be a part of that village.