What Will Follow Me

“Where would any of us be without teachers- without people who had passion for their art or their science or their craft and they loved it right in front of us?” –Mr. Rogers

Next year will bring  a new set of preps for me. I’ll be teaching 7th and 8th grade (European and American) history. Moving to a new grade level team and a new set of classes was a tough choice. On one level is not that big of a change- same school, same general area (humanities), and same division- but this will be my fourth year teaching here and not one of those years has had the same set of preps.

I wrestled for the past three years with not loving the content I was primarily responsible for teaching. I think this in some ways was a useful experience. When you love the content that you’re teaching, there’s the danger of losing your capacity for empathetic imagination and thinking that all your students find [fill in the blank] as thrilling as you do. There were aspects of what I was teaching that I truly enjoyed, but I never felt so in love with it that I couldn’t understand why a kid might have difficulty caring about it. I think this fact also drove me to work harder and ask for help more often. Feeling totally at a loss for how to teach some aspects of the English curriculum drove me to the English Companion Ning, which has been an incredible resource for me over the past three years.

But when the opportunity came up to teach something I love, I decided to take it.

It’s tempting to think that a change of scenery will mean that everything that’s hard about teaching will disappear. If I can just find that magical set of preps or position, I will suddenly become a wunder-teacher who can pound out trimester narrative reports in two hours and never take any longer than overnight to grade papers. The anxiety that I feel when trying to teach writing won’t crop up in other places, and every project will be executed perfectly.

But I’m sure these things will follow me in some form or another, so I’ll keep chipping away at them. What’ll will also be coming along, though, is the love of history and story that drove me as a child to sneak into the bathroom and read biographies by the night light.

How you decide when it’s time to make a change? What has followed you through the changes?

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One thought on “What Will Follow Me

  1. I put my first comments on ECN, but I didn’t really answer your question about changes. I’ve made some big changes at various points. I’ve left two teaching jobs with no promise of another in hand. I stopped being a department chair, although I was reasonably good at it and could have continued indefinitely. Next year I’m not teaching American Studies, a course I love and a program I’ve helped to build over 16 years. And my retirement is looming.

    Change is not scary for me, maybe because as a military brat I moved a lot. When I feel like I am no longer making a difference or could make a bigger difference elsewhere, it’s time to shake things up.

    “Follow your bliss.” — Joseph Campbell

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