Sunday, May 25, 2014

To Leave or Not to Leave

Follow Your Heart?

Really?  This cliche always seemed enigmatic.  I teach because it's in my bones.  It's a part of me like breathing.  I never thought I had to look to my "heart" to decide what I wanted to do with my life.  I always knew.

I get it now.

Not long ago, I was given the opportunity to leave the classroom again.  It was a fabulous offer and I know that I would have loved it.  I would have loved my colleagues and the opportunity to work with teachers again at the district level.  I was flattered that a district outside of my own would want ME (of all people) to work with them.

I turned it down.

I know that some people would probably think that I am crazy. A higher level position, better benefits, no papers to grade...


I want to stay with kids.

It's sad sometimes that a lot of the most passionate classroom teachers end up leaving for other positions.  But I understand why.  Classroom teaching is exhausting.  Sometimes I want to die when I see the stack of papers to grade or when I realize that I will be spending my entire Saturday at school because I am not even close to being ready for the next week.

Also, working at a district level or higher allows us to impact children on a broader scale.  Sometimes we have a calling to work with education at a more global level.  I know this. 

But I love teaching kids.  I love being able to connect kids with books and authors.  I love helping kids develop agency.  I love watching them become empowered.  I love modeling for them that it's o.k. to be completely and utterly nerdy.

I can't do these things outside the classroom.  I mean, I could.  But it's just not the same.  We adults come with so much baggage.  (I know because I carry the baggage in my luggage cart, too.)  It's not nearly as fun to be a passionate and ridiculous dork in front of adults as it is with kids.

Last week, three of my former students came to see me again.  They are in college, they are amazing kids, and I would be lying if I said this didn't impact my decision to stay. Leaving the classroom would mean no more visits like this.  And yes, these kids are awesome, even though they make fun of how many Instagram followers I have.  (Thanks a lot, TW and CC.)

They let me know that I need more Instagram followers.

Sometimes I wonder why, in education, does it seem like we always must move up, up, up the professional ladder?  Why is staying in the classroom with children not something you do when you are successful?  I need to push back on that thinking.

This decision was hard.  I didn't sleep for a few nights, sure.  But I chose to follow that "heart" voice, wherever it may be coming from.  I chose the little people, who really aren't that much different than us adults.  In fact, maybe experience and size are our only differences?

So thanks, Heart.  Now that I know how you sound, I will listen for you.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I Thought I Knew

You would think that I would know my students, considering that we only have three more weeks of school.

You would think that I would know basic information, such as where they were born.  Or how long they have lived in the United States.

You would think.

I was wrong.

This week I learned that I have a student in my class whose grandfather is one of the most important Ministers in the Republic of Guinea, Africa.

I didn't know.

I had also assumed that this same child, an English Language Learner, was born in Guinea and had moved to the United States when he was 7 years old.

I was wrong.

This past Friday, when his grandfather visited our class (oh my gosh!), I learned that this wonderful student was actually born in the United States.  When he was 1 year old, his parents sent him BACK to Guinea so he could spend his formative years learning from his grandfather, learning French, and going to school in Guinea.  He returned to the U.S. when he was 7.

Wow.  Would I do the same with my own children?  Would I have the courage to send my child away to another country for seven years to be with my parents?

I am continually amazed at my students and the life experiences they have.  Watching my student translate for his grandfather while our class asked questions was the highlight of my month.  

How better for 9 year olds to learn about the French Colonization of Guinea, than from one of the Ministers of Guinea himself?

I need another year with these kids.  I really do.

And I look absolutely ridiculous in this shirt while next to these beautiful people.