The Struggle

5523432259_6115cd280dA little over a year ago I blogged that I was leaving my classroom to accept a consultant position with my school division. I’ve been in this position for almost a year. And in all honesty, it’s been a struggle.  In fact, this past year has probably been the most difficult year of my teaching career.

At first I thought it might be an identity thing. I knew how to be a teacher, but had no identity as a consultant. Maybe it would go away.  But the truth is, it hasn’t.  In December, I let both my coordinator and my superintendent know that I was deeply struggling with being a consultant. However, I couldn’t specifically pinpoint the exact problem. I work with great people. I’ve learned a ton. I’m treated with respect. What more could anyone want?

After having the conversation with my boss, I spent the next three days in bed sick, and almost every waking moment I spent pondering this dilemma. What exactly is wrong?

And then it hit me — it’s not the position; it’s me. Everyday since I’ve left my classroom, I’ve missed it.  Everyday I have missed kids. I miss their energy and enthusiasm, their optimisim. Their quirks. Their struggles. Their hugs. I miss the energy and noise of a school.  And even though I work in classrooms, those kids are never mine. They always belong to someone else.

Beyond this I miss pushing the envelope, trying what’s new.  Innovating. Failing.  And learning in the most intense way I’ve ever experienced.  I love taking risks, problem-solving the glitches and the intensity it requires of my brain. It makes me feel alive.

And as hard as this year has been, I don’t regret it. I’ve learned so much about teaching & schools that I never could have learned in my classroom. I’ve learned in vivid, sometimes startling ways, how important the administration of a school is for setting the tone, creating the culture, and supporting change.  I’ve learned how curriculum, instruction and assessment intersect in valuable ways with student support to provide an education that matters for all. I work with some of the most amazing people.  Consultants who are incredibly generous and talented, and I have learned so much from so many of them.  I’ve learned that we do so many great things in elementary school to support students that all but disappear by high school, and in order for our kids to be successful, they need to continue.

But I’ve also come to realize that I need to go back to the classroom. At this point, I don’t know exactly what this will look like or what the timeline will be or even where I’ll end up. But I’m open to whatever possibilties open up.

My ideal would be to move into an administrative role in a K-8 school in the fall, so that I can still teach part-time. And I have reasons for this. I’ve heard many times from skeptics that I can do this inquiry/pbl thing because I teach older students. I want to prove them wrong. I want be able to work in grade 1 classrooms to create pbl & blended learning environments.  And I’m excited at the possibility of working in middle years to foster independence & responsibility for their own learning and create thin walls in our classroom, so they can collaborate with classrooms elsewhere.

At this point I have very few answers. And sometimes that feels a bit scary. But I trust that I’ll end up where I belong.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Ralph Waldo Emerson

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About shelleywright

I love education & learning, which likely explains why I'm a teacher. My areas are ELA, Sr. sciences, and technology. My classroom is best described as a student-centred, tech embedded pbl/inquiry learning environment. I am currently a PhD student in the area of Curriculum and Instruction. My focus is play-based learning in high school, and it's impact on brain development.
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33 Responses to The Struggle

  1. You can DEFINITELY do pbl with the younger students. I’ve done pbl with grades 3-5 with great success. The fun challenge is to help students set learning targets and time-based goals. When students are engaged, they can work independently while you hold individual conferences and small group “mini-seminars” with students. In that way, you can differentiate and individualize instruction.

    Anyhoo, next week I start my first role as a K-5 principal. I’m excited by the challenge but also worried that I’ll miss working with kids. I’ve made a goal to play with a different group of students at some point each day – be it before school, or during lunch/recess.

    I look forward to reading how your roles change. :)

    • saasc says:

      Shelley,

      You know how much I value you and the work you do, no matter what role you are in. I think we’ve come to a space where you & I create this no-matter-what-learning space between us. For us, the trick: now what? I know the inquiry/PBL thing can thrive in any space with any age. I know an admin who fosters a culture of care makes these spaces easier for teachers & students and for teaching & learning. I know you understand this in a way that makes you ache to return to a school space. I know; I live alongside the beauty you bring to our learning spaces now.

  2. psmiley says:

    Shelley,
    Sometimes I’ll save a blog to read until I have more time. But your title drew me in immediately. Your story is so heartfelt and thank you so much for sharing your “struggle”. Whatever our own particular “struggles” are, there comes a time when we figure it out or see our way clear and start on a new “path”. It’s at that point that we know we’ll be alright and that we have learned much of value (just as you have explained)! Good luck and best wishes to you!

  3. Great post. I think it is invaluable to be able to be away from what we love doing only so we can have a clearer perspective on it. And I applaud your desire to bring PBL to the lower grades. I think kids there are even more receptive to it, and simply need to be guided towards their goals. All the best in working towards this.

  4. Anita says:

    My path as an educator seems to be following a similar path to yours. I only lasted a year in a consultant-type role and have a great deal of admiration for those who last longer. I too am thrilled that I did it as I learned so much and made such great connections… but I needed to be back in a school!! I am now in admin and am absolutely loving it. All the best to you!!

  5. 3D Eye says:

    Your post resonates with me completely. It’s where I was a few years ago. I think even now, I miss the children and being part of a wonderful school community. You’ll make the right choice for you, and a year out from school isn’t that long. If you choose to return to class teaching, you’ll be able to bring in all those experiences from consulting into your class – exciting times, but we also need enlightened consultants too; ones who can guide and support, picking up positive pedagogy instinctively to share with others.

    You’re also absolutely correct when you say you can do pbl with younger children. They are so inquisitive and less indoctrinated by other teaching and learning styles. This active learning methodology suits them perfectly.

    Good luck with making the right choice for you

    CB

    • I’ve talked to so many teachers about this, and all of them say the same thing. They miss the kids and it never really goes away. For many it becomes less, but for me it hasn’t, so I know I need a change. I’m looking forward to being able to take all that I’ve learned. I think it will improve what goes on in my classroom greatly.

  6. j. macrae says:

    This is why I never went there. I have been an educator for 39 years and I KNOW that it is the kids in the classroom that have given me the most rewards of my life. My classroom is my sandbox and I am responsible for the “playing” that takes place there. I also know that my mindset is where it is because, as I say to my friends…”I get older but I teach the same age students each year and the rewards for me are knowing what is going on in their culture”. I listen to their music, watch their movies and hear them talk about what is of concern to them from their perspective.

    Enjoy being back with the energy and wisdom of youth…you have powerful stuff to give them and they are eagerly awaiting it….even if they do not know you are coming.

    So glad I have found you messages:-)

  7. bobirving13 says:

    Thanks for sharing. It’s a “natural” progression for some to move from the classroom into other roles: consulting, admin, etc. So we often think of it as a step “up”. It is for some. I’m with you. I just love the kids, the classroom, the energy, the connections…. it’s taken me a while to come to terms with it, but I’m happy with it now. Best of luck on your journey. I’m sure you will land somewhere that you will love and that will fulfill you and those you work with.

  8. Kevin says:

    Your post articulates well what I have been feeling for the past 3 years since I left the classroom and took a teacher coaching position. Though I enjoy not having to create formal lesson plans and prepare for a sub, there is so much more I miss. There are so many things I would like to do with a group of students but can’t because I they are simply not my kids. Work is no longer exciting – at least not to the level that was on just an average day in the classroom.

    I look forward to following where the adventure takes you.

    • I think each position has it’s pros and cons. I certainly don’t miss marking! But for me, this has been a year that’s helped me figure out what really matters to me as a teacher. And it’s kids.

  9. mmichaluk says:

    I want to tell you how much I have enjoyed reading your blogposts over the last year-always so insightful, genuine and student first. I have heard great things about what you have done/tried to do in your consultant role – what we are able to do is sooooo dependent on what others will let us do – frustrating to say the least. It is a difficult shift to move from the classroom to a consultant position for sure. I am not sure you ever get over missing the daily contact with the children and building rapport as can only be done with a class that is truly your own. Hang in there and keep doing the great things you do for students…..and know that when you do leave us to return to the classroom, you will be missed!

    • Thanks, Michelle. I have learned so much from you guys. I think one of the most important things I’ve learned in this position is that we do so many great things in early elementary that our students still need in middle school & high school, even though they may need to look a bit different. I would have never known that had I stayed in my classroom.

  10. After our conversation earlier in December, this isn’t surprising to me. I know you’ll take the experience as a positive one as you shared. No learning is ever wasted, no matter how challenging it is.

    As much as you love the classroom, I’m glad you’ve recognized your need to provide leadership as well. As a certain Greek from Alberta would say, “everyone’s a leeeder” which while I tease him about it’s true. Your leadership for many of us has been displayed on this blog and your venture into a teacher leader role will serve you well and I look forward to watching you flourish in a new position. I’d love to see you lead a school. As always, you can count on my support.

  11. David Wees says:

    Next year I’ll be in a role with no classroom presence, and I suspect I will miss it as well. The past two years though my time with my own classroom has diminished greatly though, but I have been able to spend much more time in other people’s classrooms, to the point where I think most of the students in my small (450 students, k – 12) school recognize me and know my name.

    I agree with Dean that you should definitely look for a leadership role, and continue the leadership you have started through your blog and your consultancy role. A part-time teaching role will do you well, as it will help you rebuild that connection to students you crave.

    But please don’t stop blogging, because then we will have lost one of the voices that helps push us!

  12. One of the benefits of moving to work at the university has been that I get to teach again.

    I must say that I’ll be encouraging the students in my class to read this post. We should all strive to blog with the honesty and integrity that you demonstrate in your posts.

  13. Even though I don’t know you, I could sense through your posts this year that you missed the classroom. I am thankful for this post. I used to long to be a consultant of some kind and leave the classroom (especially at my previous job). Now that I am teaching at a PBL school I love teaching more than ever and would not leave this job until retirement. I honestly enjoy it every single day and it is all about the relationships with the kids.

    • I can understand that. There’s something about PBL that makes a classroom a wonderful place to be, especially when kids are engaged and excited about their learning. It’s life giving.

  14. Shelly, the irony here is I just got around to checking your last post due to workload in my new role as……You guessed it- Educational Technologist for Saskatoon Public. I too have just taken on the new role this year and I share many of your sentiments and realities. Your post really resonated with me. I wish you well and hope that maybe we can “compare notes”someday.

  15. I am sure there are many teachers that feel exactly the way you do! I have often been tempted to take on various roles that would take me away from the classroom. In the end though, I know in my heart that what I love the most, is teaching kids. In this post you have expressed this beautifully. Thank you Shelley and good luck with your future career. Jeff T [Webmaths]

  16. Pingback: 4 More Sleeps « Webmaths

  17. misterhutchinson says:

    Thank you for being courageous. This blog is an inspiration. I enjoyed learning from your process.

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