Here I am, two months into my new job. I have to say that it’s already an incredible experience. Of course, a new placement puts me on a learning curve. But quite honestly, I love that about life. I love being challenged and asked to do tricky things. Don’t many of us?
Here, then, is a list of just some of what I’ve learned. You might see some of these themes in future blog posts, but thought I’d sum up here.
1. It’s hard to leave colleagues. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my former co-workers. I miss the laughs we had in the copy room, the after school “book clubs,” the discussions and – yes, sometimes – disagreements we had about our kids and how we thought it best to work with them.
2. It’s hard to leave students and families. How strange it was to stand in the hallway that first day of school in my new job. Were this my old school, I’d be hugging and high-fiving just about everybody. I’d know all the kids’ names and be chatting about their summers. Instead, I kept quiet and soaked up the vibe. I miss those kids, and I hope they are doing well.
3. There will always be new colleagues, new kids and new families. I could say that I’m surprised and overwhelmed by how welcome the staff and families at both of my schools have made me feel. I think that would be a lie. Of COURSE they have made me feel welcome. How could I expect otherwise? The people I work with demonstrate tireless dedication to kids, incredible teaching skills, and some of them have a pretty wicked sense of humor. They amaze me every day. As for the kids, nothing beats their sincerity, their joy, and their enthusiasm for learning.
4. Leadership, leadership, leadership. I have always known how important great leadership (as opposed to management) can be. It’s amazing to be in a place where I can live it. I look at the systems and structures in place, and it’s clear to me that there is forethought, purpose and vision behind everything. Insert sigh of relief <<here>>.
5. Sometimes teaching IS everything. It has been a long time since I have been in a position to pour all of my energy into teaching. It’s almost scary what a difference that time and energy will do. More posts soon on some of the cool things my students and I have been able to accomplish in the short time we’ve been together.
6. Welcome to Disneyland. Around here, where schools are generously funded and richly supported by families and communities that give time and resources, there is a tendency for districts to say that they are like Disneyland. And you know what? They’re RIGHT. With this new job, I’ve gone from one Disneyland to another. How incredible it is to work in places where you don’t have to hold gift wrap sales to buy copy paper and chalk. How wonderful to be teaching children whose parents are so invested and involved.
But, my friends, even Disney has its other side. Discovering that fact in my former district nearly led to a possible burn-out and end to my teaching career. I can look back and say that now. Really. I think if I had allowed myself to continue on that path, I would not be teaching in another five years.
And as cynical as it might sound to say it, I know my new Disneyland will have its darker side. I can look ahead and say that now, because I’ve always known that any situation we find ourselves in can be at once magnificent and unlivable. Now, however, I think I understand how important it is to find a way through whatever problems come my way without actually internalizing them.
Until then, you can find me in line for Space Mountain. I’m enjoying the ride.