In the early morning darkness of an Idaho school, I always felt at home entering my classroom and setting down my belongings. I loved waiting for my kids and getting through a day of learning. Of course, everyday hiccups of teaching occurred, but the classroom was my home. It gave me direction.
With a desire to make a larger impact on more students, I made the decision to step out of my sanctuary and find myself into a more administrative position: Dean of Students. As a dean, I focus on opportunities to build school culture and support the social emotional learning (SEL) of students, which includes behavior intervention.
As I began this new journey, I felt disjointed and quickly asked myself a question: why did I leave the classroom? While the challenges I faced were surely difficult, the number of obstacles and concerns needing addressed amplified when stepping back and looking at the school as a whole. People warned me that I would need to let go of the classroom and think at the school level. I now know what they mean.
In the classroom I was concerned with ensuring that my students were meeting expectations and feeling supported, but in a school-level role I am not only concerned with all students meeting expectations and feeling supported but working with all of the families. In the classroom I worried about classroom supplies, now I think about how the systems and routines impact the culture of the school. I know what they meant by needing to step away from the classroom, but still wonder if it needs to be entirely true.
Shock of a new reality hit hard. The blow sent me scrambling back to the classroom. When teachers were out sick, I jumped at the chance to get in front of students and be a “teacher” again.
I craved these moments to be back with the students. I wanted nothing more than to be back in my own classroom, surrounded by my materials and routines. It felt safe.
When I am able to return to the classroom, I remember the challenges and dedication each teacher puts into their work. It provides perspective and gives me empathy for the work that my colleagues do every day. In turn, I can be more effective in my role as I support teachers and students. I remember what the nitty gritty feels like each time I am “teacher for the day”. It fuels me to chug along another day. It’s the reminder of why I started working in education.
In the midst of the Great Resignation, I sometimes wonder why I left the classroom and contemplate if I will go back to one next year. However, then there are days in my role that I see the impact I can have on students, families, teachers, and the community.
Administrators, we need to never forget why we love teaching. It should drive our work and always center back on students. While we have a bigger picture to examine, the details are what pull it together. If we lose sight of those details, such as the work of a teacher, we lose our ability to provide the best support.
Policymakers, help provide resources to schools that will allow an administrator time to re-enter the classrooms. Give them opportunities to be a teacher, even if it’s small moments. Work to make this a requirement for administrators. We can do more to remind ourselves, as I try to do every day, why I love teaching.
I love teaching. It is one of the most difficult and rewarding professions. A bad day can feel destructive, but nothing beats a great day in the classroom. All the in-betweens are manageable, but we live for those amazing moments.