ALERT: The following blog post is admittedly a bit depressing. I think it offers some great advice that many teachers out there need to hear, but I wanted to prepare you before reading. I’m excited for the new school year to start soon, so I promise only positive, inspiring posts from now until school starts! (After this one, that is.)
I came across a wonderfully written article about a week ago that I want to share with you all:
Although written about 8 years ago, I find myself identifying with this article more today than I think I would have even at this time last year. I cannot quite put my finger on it, but I think I’ve undergone some sort of realization (a big one, a worldview-changing one) sometime in the last year that is making me think about my career in new ways. Ultimately, I’ve come to the realization that I am doing what I love, but that doing what I love can take multiple forms.
For teachers, we often enter the classroom believing that we have made the right choice. We are meant to be in the classroom, teaching students and helping them become well-adjusted adults. It is our calling, as many people put it. However, many teachers (perhaps most) do not take the time to think about the myriad ways in which we can help students. Sure, classroom teaching is the most direct pathway to interacting and helping young people, but there are other ways in which we can contribute. My career path is pretty solid in my head: I am working on my Masters degree in education with the goal of moving on to an advanced degree and, ultimately, teaching pre-service teachers. My favorite teachers of all time were my undergraduate education professors. They were, to me, the most influential people I have ever encountered. Not only were they making a direct, positive impact on my life, they were indirectly influencing the lives of every student I will ever teach. I want to do that!
This brings to mind one distinct, omnipresent problem, however: I do not want to leave the classroom! Teaching freshmen the ins and outs of Earth Science for the last 3.5 years has been an incredible, exhilarating experience. I cannot imagine not teaching high school. So, I amend my ultimate career goal: I want to teach pre-service teachers while keeping one foot in the high school classroom. I cannot think of a better way to remain present on the educational issues of today, while helping to solve those issues alongside undergraduate education students. Now, the real challenge will be finding a way to do this. I will have to cross that bridge when I come to it, I suppose.
Ok, back to the article I brought up earlier. Sure, I have a decent idea of how I will achieve doing what I love. Most people, however, are at a complete loss when it comes to finding a viable way to do what they love every day. Paul Graham offers two pathways to do this: The Two-job route, and the Organic route. Admittedly, these routes are more realistic in the business world, but I think they can also apply to the public sector. As teachers, many of us have hobbies that, if a variety of factors are just right, can become lucrative. The Two-job route makes sense in this case; Teach to support yourself, while mastering your craft with the intention of monetizing it in the future. The Organic route is what I believe I am on. As you advance in your career, take on additional responsibilities (i.e. grad school or other advancement opportunities) that mesh more directly with where your heart lies. Eventually, you will have only desirable tasks on your daily plate.
Now, I know what many of you are thinking at this point. Is he really giving us advice for how to leave the classroom? To be completely honest, yes. As depressing and counterintuitive as this may sound, many teachers (you may be guilty here!) are not doing what they love. This isn’t to say that you (or any other teacher you may have in mind) is not good at teaching. It is to say, though, that if your heart isn’t in your classroom, you may need to follow it out the door. I never wish unhappiness on anyone, and if leaving the classroom will set you on the path to doing what you love, I will never try to convince you otherwise. (Unless you’re just going through a temporary crisis, but that’s a blog post for another day!)
So, I guess what I’m saying is simply this: Teachers can smile too, but I would rather see you smile than be a teacher who isn’t.