Yes, It's true -- after 17 years of my on-again off-again love affair with classroom teaching, I have finally left the classroom for good, and am joining what some of my colleagues call "the dark side": I've accepted a permanent position as an Education Officer with the Curriculum and Assessment Branch at the Ontario Ministry of Education. (Or, as I've discovered that those in the know refer to us, I am becoming an "EO at the MOE"!!)
In the past year or two, however, I have been pulled increasingly away from the classroom, as invitations and opportunities to participate in bigger picture projects have come my way, and about halfway through last school year, I found myself at an emotional crossroads: I simply physically could not keep meeting the high standards I set for myself as a teacher AND as an educational leader in my other "side" projects, especially as a mother of two children (and a high-maintenance rescue dog) with a busy personal life to balance.
I was a bit of a scary realization, because I've always believed that the most effect change agency comes from authentic relationships, and there is no relationship more authentic to a teacher than a colleague who is trying it out in her own classroom down the hall.
And in this new job, I have no idea what I am doing, concretely speaking.
But the way things worked out, the timing for such a change just felt right, and so, with a few negotiations to fine-tune the details, I took the plunge.
Avoidance and Denial
With a busy July tying up loose ends from my old job and preparing for and running two multi-day workshops for teachers in Ontario, and an equally hectic August caring for my kids and hosting various visitors at our home on PEI, it was easy for me to push this massive professional change onto the backburner, mentally.
Now I just think, "oh, well, no, I don't need to buy that/pick that up off the beach/take a photo of that".
It's a bit of a strange feeling for a few minutes, but then it dissolves into "What am I going to cook for dinner?", or "Boys, stop fighting over whose turn it is in the hammock, and let's play a board game!", or "Sneakers, NO! Don't chase that heron/piping plover/seagull/etc! Come here!"
But now that my kids have both gone back to Toronto, and I am on my own with the dog out here on the island for a few more days before heading back home myself, and it's always MY turn in the hammock, reality is beginning to sink in!
It doesn't help that messages from former colleagues -- who are in the throes of back-to-school planning -- have begun to trickle in, checking in on me, telling me who is pillaging my old classroom for good stuff before the new guy gets there, and wishing me all the best in my new job. Nor has it done much to alleviate my denial strategies to continuously walk by the pile of professional reading I had requested and received from my new boss earlier in the summer, and brought along to devour on PEI (predictably, no such devouring has as yet occurred), and which continues to sit suggestively in a pile on the floor in my bedroom, inching closer to the nightstand over the past week!
But perhaps the biggest reality check was a stop I made at Staples in Ch'town the other day: I wanted to print a photo for one of my kids, and up I marched to the front door from the parking lot, only to be greeted with a giant sign proclaiming a 10% discount and a special free gift for teachers! The little thrill I usually feel each summer when I see that teacher appreciation day sign at Staples was replaced with a moment of panic, as I tried to ascertain my identity...
Am I still a teacher? Or does being a paper pusher at the MOE not really count anymore?
Teaching has been a part of my identity for as long as I can remember. I've never been one of these people who fell into teaching because there was nothing else to do; I've actively pursued this profession, and been married to it in every sense of the word. I love classroom teaching with all my being, and I am damned good at it, too.
I remember reading an article once, about the results of a poll that indicated that classroom teachers had far more credibility with the general population than school principals, even. Is someone who does "policy writing and implementation" closer to the former, or the latter? Standing at the checkout at Staples on Teacher Appreciation Day, I wasn't sure.
For the record, I did tell the nice lady at the counter that I was a teacher, and claimed my discount and my prize. I felt a brief pang of guilt as I did so, but no way was I walking out of that store without my free 3-D apple notepad and funky green teacher pen!!!