Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Decision to "Boldly Go" Back to the Classroom

Six years ago I made the jump from the classroom to a position in our district office. As the social studies curriculum specialist, I got to work with teachers from kindergarten through twelfth grade, across 63 elementary schools, 15 junior highs, and 9 high schools. 67,000 students or something. And I liked it. I liked being able to help teachers with curriculum problems, help find resources for them, be an advocate for them at the district level, be a liaison between the schools and the state…there are things I liked about that job and (I think) did well.

There are other things I didn’t. Two hour meetings where my job was to sit and not say anything (I doodled soooo much great stuff), being tasked with districtwide initiatives for 87 schools with no resources or support. Putting together standardized tests that I don’t think are the best way to measure student growth or achievement. Mountains of paperwork (and thank goodness for my incredible secretary who…she’s amazing) that I never quite appreciated.

The bigger issue is that pretty much every day I missed the students. I didn’t go into education to be a quasi-administrator, I didn’t go into education to sit through endless meetings. I went into education to teach kids. Like, actual human children. And I missed it. When you’re working with kids, you see impact. You see things that work, things that don’t work. You see kids who are struggling, and kids who do more than you could have ever imagined them capable of. Sometimes in the same kid. I've been feeling like I needed to be back with those students for the last two years or so. So I'm heading back into the classroom.

When I think about my past, present, and future jobs in the context of my larger career, I keep coming back to Captain Kirk. Or, more specifically, Admiral Kirk. You see, when James T. Kirk finished his five year mission, he was promoted to the position of admiral. He took a desk job. Dr. McCoy told him not to do it, Spock told him not to do it, Scotty told him not to do it. But he did it anyway. And he regretted it pretty much every day. In Star Trek: The Motion(less) Picture, he ended up taking temporary command of the Enterprise, and saved Earth. Also, he basically got to spend the entire movie in PJs, so it wasn't a total loss.

In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, he again took temporary command of the Enterprise, this time to stop a madman. In the scene where he takes command (this time from Spock), he keeps protesting, saying "no no no I couldn't possibly, nooooo please no not the briar patch" and then Spock is like "STFU bro, I don't have feelings to bruise, even though I'm slowly dying inside, I'll let you take this one bc we're bros" ...these may be paraphrased. I don't need Paramount suits coming after me.

In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, he stole the Enterprise and blew it up to save a friend. I'll probably skip that part. Fire codes, paperwork...it's gotta be a headache.

In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, he was on his way to his own court martial, ended up picking up some humpback whales from 1986, and again saved Life As We Know It. He was Admiral Kirk in all four of those movies. At the end of the fourth movie, his punishment for breaking all kinds of Starfleet laws was being busted down from the rank of admiral to captain, and being put back in command of a starship. The Enterprise. Of course. He was told it was the job that he always should have had, and why weren't you doing it all along, your friends told you so, you keep sneaking back onto the bridge of starships every chance you get -- just go do the job that you're actually good at.

Thaaaat’s how I feel right now. I did some good things in my district office job, but the job I'm most suited for is a classroom teacher. I’m excited to be going back. I’m heading to a high school, and it’s the first time I’ve taught high school. I’ve worked with high school teachers in my own district and across the country, and my sons are both in high school now—I think I get it. I’m a little intimidated, I’m a little nervous, but only realistically so.

Despite my six year hiatus, I’m more connected now to other teachers than I’ve ever been. I’ve spent six years seeing the amazing things you are all doing in your classrooms, and I want to bring some of that to my own school. I’ve got a great department, great administration, and the best kids in the district. All of those ideas have me excited.

The district office has been good for me. It’s opened doors. I’ve had the luxury of more time to reflect on practice than a classroom teacher gets. I’ve had more time to explore different pedagogy, different resources than you typically have when you’re rushing from class to class day by day. I’m grateful to my colleagues there, but going back to the classroom is like going back home. It’s where I belong. As Captain Kirk himself said, I'll "boldly go" where I haven't been before. And where my heart has always been. And I'm gonna rock it.


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