I currently have perhaps the best job in the world. I work with an amazing team of professionals, I get to engage in learning and thinking about topics in education which most people don’t often get to delve into because they have three classes of 30 to prepare for. I get to go into classes to co-plan, co-teach, co-learn, and debrief with teachers of every subject area. Teachers trust me enough to take my suggestions and try them, knowing I will support them. I get to lead professional learning around the meaningful integration of technology in school. I have met and worked with hundreds of amazing educators in my District. This is no different than what other system leaders do.
And yet, I have been at a crossroads lately. I miss being in a school. I knew it was time for a change. The question became…go into administration? go back into a classroom? or something else?
For my Sicilian parents who have been ever supportive of me, the choice was clear (little known fact my mom didn’t speak to me for a week when I told her that I wanted to be a teacher rather than a lawyer–she thought I was wasting my talents). My mom said to me, “Why aren’t you a principal? You are smart enough! Can’t you be the Director?” Having never gone beyond grade 5 in Italy and never studied here, she has no real concept of the whole Vice-principal, Principal, Superintendent, Director trajectory–but what a blessing to have a mom that believes in me so much.
For my husband and teen daughters, who listen to me celebrate and complain at the dinner table (when I make it home on time for dinner) and who love and support me unconditionally, their advice was to reflect upon what makes me happy. This has been the advice of my dear friends as well. But how does one really know what makes them happy? Isnt’ happiness a relative term? I am happy when I am doing work that I’m passionate about. I am happy when I work with kids, I am happy when I feel like I am making a difference. I am happy when I am learning new things. When I taught English (or Special Education or Coop or ESL or Italian) I was happy. When I am leading professional learning, I am happy. But in each of those instances I was disappointed, frustrated, and longing for more as well because I am always reflecting on how I can be better.
George Couros, who has been an incredible mentor and friend to me over the past year offered this advice:
So there was that happiness question again!! But in discerning the answers to #2 & #3 were where I now set my mind.
The first step in answering question 2 is understanding my strengths. We ask our students to do this, don’t we? I think big picture, I try things and then reflect on their success/failure and try again. If I hear a good idea, I move that idea to action. I am happy when I push the boundaries of what Literacy, Curriculum, and assessment look like (geeky but true). I am effective leader. I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t have the freedom to be a leader. And so the question of impact…
What is impact? Isn’t this as relative a term as happiness? If I can have a deep impact on 30 students, isn’t that more meaningful that having little impact on hundreds of teachers? How might I measure impact? A thank you vs a test score vs a thoughtful question that has come out of learning something new? Does a principal have more impact in education than a classroom teacher? How about a Department Head? A Teacher-Librarian? An education officer at the Ministry of Education? A Superintendent? I would argue that this depends more on the person than the title.
George’s questions helped clarify my thinking and my answers gave me direction.
I applied to be a Teacher-Librarian at a high school and was successful. In that role, I will have the privilege of working with an administrative team, with a collaborative group of Teacher-Librarians, with teachers, and with students.
I will miss working with the amazing people at the CEC and beyond, but in my new role I will have impact, I will be able to use my gifts and talents, and I think I will be happy! Best of all, I will be able to work with students again; why I became a teacher to begin with.
I can run a coding club, create a makerspace, run a book club, facilitate connections with students and the world. I can not just talk about student voice, but I can empower students to use their voices and be there to support them when they think they are voiceless or powerless.
It’s an IB school so I have a lot of learning to do: which I am so excited about and there are so many incredible Teacher-Librarian role models in Ontario and in North America from whom I continue to learn.
Did I make the right decision? Who knows? But change is good…Change is an opportunity to do something amazing!