Half a decade or so ago, I had a “should I stay or should I go” soul-searching moment. A few respected friends offered me the chance to join their business as a partner. I'd have to earn my share with lots of sweat, but they saw potential in me and had just the right opportunity for me to join.
We'd been flirting with the idea for a few years by then, but here the chance had come. It was now or never.
There were lots of upsides. I'd get to work with people I loved. I'd get to explore new skill areas and new domains of knowledge. I'd get to build in to people as a leader. I'd get to craft a culture. I'd get to earn a lot more money.
There was just one problem: I'd have to be done teaching and writing. After all, I'm not willing to work around the clock and sacrifice my family for success. There was no way I could add one more thing to my teaching/writing slate — let alone a thing as labor-laden as this.
That was five or six years ago now. And as I sit here on a Saturday morning, typing while 52 of my students take a practice AP exam, I'm as confident in the decision to keep teaching as I've ever been. There is just something about this job — remote or in-person, masked or not, grading or teaching, connecting or troubleshooting — that feels like home.
Sure, the Wall is real, and I experience frequent spins in the Workload-Pressure whirlpool. Absolutely. Every year presents an inner journey — and no year quite like this one. I do sometimes doubt, and I do sometimes wonder about doing other things.
But I keep coming back. Not because there are no other worthy ways to spend one's working life — there are ALL kinds of them. Not because of guilt — after all, my students have all kinds of teachers before they come to me and all kinds of them after. I don't stay because of some sense that I'm a savior, duty-bound to teach.
No. It's just that I still think teaching is good. I think learning is beautiful. I think schools are still the places with the greatest potential for advancing the long-term flourishing of each child. I think I'm still hardly scratching the surface of what's possible in our classrooms given the right emphases and constraints.
So, long way of saying it, but here's the deal — I'm in.
Then what's the plan?
Despite schools being the most potential-laden places for advancing the long-term flourishing of young people, obstacles abound and distractions swarm. Next school year represents a unique opportunity for starting to fix this. But just like always, many of the most talked-about solutions probably aren't going to work.
What's popular is rarely the same as what's best.
In the weeks to come, I intend to write a series on the few emphases that I think deserve pride of place in our conversations about the year to come. I'll aim to write in a way that helps both classroom practitioners and leaders — after all, the roles are interlinked, and many of us do both.
Before I go, one thing to leave you with.
The system we aim to improve isn't policies and procedures — it's people. It's not what's said a few times during a single day of PD — it's what's said a thousand times in the hearts and minds and mouths of the folks who work within the system. Changing things on paper without changing things in the hearts and minds of teachers doesn't do much. Lip service is an illusion; it only deepens our dysphoria.
When the heart's not there, fruit's unlikely to follow.
None of what I just said is easy. But it's reality. There are no better partners than reality.
More soon. But in the meantime, much love. I am so proud and thankful to be your colleague.
Teaching right beside you,