Thanks so for much for posting your reflection. It is vital that teachers take the time to step back from the buzz and blur of the classroom and see the depth and breadth of their experience.
As you know this was a big year for me. It was one thing to suggest in Teaching 2030 that we should theoretically have more teachers who lead from the classroom. It is another thing to put your foot where your mouth is so to speak and do it for real.
One of the things I learned this year was that doing what is right for you as a professional can be difficult but ultimately rewarding. For instance, before as a child development specialist, I was essentially working in middle management. I made more money than I will next year but, because of the way the position was structured I was essentially paid as a teacher working on a teacher salary but getting paid to work an extra hour a day and working that extra hour a day. So I was working 8 1/2 hours. I was not paid for taking on additional responsibility only for doing additional work. Next year I will work the traditional teacher day but get paid for taking on more responsibility. It was a hard decision to decide to get paid less, especially with a family to think about, but it seemed worth it. In taking on this new role I feel like in some small way I made progress for the profession by creating a role in my school system that more fairly compensates me for my expertise.
I also learned that the leaders I most look up to respected me for doing what is right for me. I realized that I am a capital T-Teacher leader first and an educational leader second. Everything I am as a leader flows from the daily interactions with human beings in my classroom. I told one of my most ardent supporters recently of my move into* the classroom (*not back). This former state superintendent once told our policy analysis class that she thought everyone of us should be a principal some day. She said it was the most rewarding experience she has had as an educator. Hearing these types of things tend to nudge you along into thinking, “Yeah, maybe I don’t need to stay in the classroom. I can make a difference from the principal’s office. She really believes in me.” I think if I was in one building working with group of students and teachers I might have felt that way but, as a highly specialized pre-k educator I was not going to get that opportunity. I spent many of my days as a child development specialist traveling from one building to another, stepping into other teachers’ rooms and trying to make incremental progress for students in our program. It was that same dilemma I faced when I entered teaching. I decided to teach pre-k instead of art because I wanted to be with 19 kids all day not 150 kids for 50 minutes a day. When I told my education hero about my move she said, “Good for you. I’m proud of you for knowing what is right for you and doing it.”
So here I am, looking at next year with excitement to walk the walk that I talk for the first time in three years. My first goal next year is to make my room a wonderland of learning by pursuing the highest levels of engagement with the 3 year-olds I will be teaching. My second goal is to make a difference for the parents and families of my classroom. Being back in the classroom really reinforced the importance of Head Start beyond basic literacy and life skills for children, it changes the lives of families in ways that can’t be counted like beans. Finally, I will try to prove I can make a difference for my students and affect the quality of services delivered across the Early Head Start program I will be leading.
Image from: http://allthegirlschitchat.blogspot.com/2010/04/fun-for-all.html