Because of the timing, I had already begun the school year teaching when I learned about the job posting at Nort2h. After a few days of consulting all sorts of people; wife, dad, mom, Garth and other teachers in my rather extensive PLN, I decided that this was a position I needed to go after.
There were a lot of professional and emotional things for me to consider in this move. Professionally it meant shaking the hand of my new superintendent, then asking him how to get out of my contract. It also meant walking away from seven years of innovation and grassroots action implementing technology in my school. In the back of my mind was also the comfort of job security. I was a tenured teacher, at the top of my game. Why give all this up and move from teaching kids to teaching teachers? That’s a complicated question and I don’t know if I can really fully answer it. Part of it had to do with feeling that there was nothing more to achieve at my school, for lots of different reasons (failed levies, lack of technology, lack of time). There is also the myriad of new initiatives, testing and evaluations being created in Ohio making damn near impossible to create the type of environment that will help students at anything but information memorization. Constructivist theory, problem-based learning, student-owned learning, etc is much harder to achieve when you have to worry about four or five different types of standardized assessment. Not to mention the hours need to prepare for the new evaluations, which (according to the rubric) leave very little room to be considered a good teacher doing the afore mentioned concepts.
Emotionally it meant even more to me. I was giving up my first job. The place that let me, become me. My coworkers and friends that have always been there to hold me up and/or shut me up when I needed it. The place where I knew who I was. A place where people depended on me. I don’t really see the emotions connected to my teaching job as negative and positive, they were just intense. In seven years I have been a part of nearly every situation (good and bad) that you could image in a public school. The death of parents, my own near death (not at school), students whom confided in me about attempted suicide and abuse, the birth of coworkers babies, marriages, divorce, firing, right-to-work union issues, rumors and truths and of course a school shooting. I don’t want to over-emphasize the effect of February 27, 2012 on me as a teacher and father, but I would be remiss not to mention it. I remember reading a statics that within three years of a school shootings most districts loose about 60% of their staff. That amazed me, I couldn’t believe a number like that. Then I started to work in a district dealing with the aftermath of such an event. It’s hard. Very hard. It changes your focus, not always for the best and it blurs the lines of teaching and caring and helping and moving on and changing and pushing and giving in. There was also all the emotional baggage connected with being the guy that was teaching and fixing things and trying to change things. Not everything I think and do works. That is easy to admit, but hard to live with when some people want you to fail, to just go away and let them teach. It is also hard to live with those new teachers that start pushing for change too. I always used to say that life would be easier if more people joined the cause with me. In reality, it isn’t easier. It’s messy and complicated. I found myself needing to do more and more outside of my work day. That meant my family was getting less and less of me. That’s just not right.
I just read a great blog post by my friend, John Schinker concerning ilearnohio. What struck me about John’s post were some truths that he hit on that were really at the cause of my leaving the classroom. I couldn’t focus on the true purpose of being a teacher. I was worrying about upkeep and maintenance of so many digital products that it was effecting my ability to create meaningful content for my students. I imagine that my teaching career would have been very different had I worked in a district where the support was there. If a machine broke, someone would come fix/replace it. Something blocked, one email fixes that. Here is a free device/service/software try it with your kids if you can. Those things didn't happened to me. EVER.
I had to make a choice, continue the struggle to maintain what my students and I had created while trying to stay innovative, or change careers and focus. I changed because at the root of everything I believe as a teacher revolves around creating meaningful educational experiences that inspire learning. For me, this is accomplished using technology. My new path allows me to share my passion for teaching and technology with hundreds of other teachers. Hopefully, influencing thousands of kids and the education they receive. My legacy is important to me and it is important to have the most impact possible. Stay tuned for more posts from me that revolve around what I see happening in education throughout Northeast Ohio. I will share all the inspirational people the I have already found in four short weeks and all those teachers to come.