One of the things that I like the best about the Radical is the thoughts that you share with me through my comments section. Inevitably, my own thinking is shaped by your words. A good example is this well-received advice left on my Standing at the Edge of the Classroom post by a reader named Rod who recommends that I redefine my idea of “classrooms” as I continue to grow as an educator:

I spent 10 yrs completing my doctorate in developmental psychology while balancing classroom and district resource teaching duties. The administrative path was open to me but my love of directly teaching and learning with students kept me tied more closely to classrooms. But I needed to redefine “classroom.”

Parents, community college and 4-yr university students are all easily reached and inspired to rethink how they see children. Something I read in the early 1990s helped me redefine “the classroom.” It was a chapter that talked about legitimate vs. questionable reasons to finsh my dissertation. The one that hit it on the head was this: Do you foresee continuing to pursue work in areas related to your dissertation?

That was an easy ‘yes’ because I was studying brain wave development in 3-to-5-year-olds. I was working with parents, interacting with their children in a hospital setting and teaching human development at the community college level. I was also given the chance to teach a 2-semester gifted education class at our state university. This was all sandwiched into working at least half-time in the public schools… love the job-sharing option!

So, I am not trying to make an argument for getting a Ph.D. Very early in my teaching career (high school Spanish and English as a Second Language) I became fascinated by the acquisition of languages…first or second. So I completed an M.A. in Spanish. By the early 1980s brain research had me hooked, but I never lost the fascination with how the mind of young children flourishes or flounders. So I kept my foot in some kind of classroom: teaching gifted education classes, teaching K-1 Spanish to 200+ students while coordinating the Hawaiian and foreign language program in K-6 schools for my district, etc.

My redefinition was simple. So many adults in so many walks of life carry around a bundle of relatively unexamined and inaccurate assumptions about children and teens. So rather than turning my back to the wider world that affects kids daily, I simply widen my audience. I included support groups for parents, gifted/talented workshops and advisory grps. And, I also looped back to full time elementary school work in a rural setting for 8 yrs. Then I retired with 33 yrs of public education under my belt.

Three months prior to retiring from public education, the College of Education offered me the chance to deliver a post-bac. course to college grads who either wanted to get teacher certification or who had already been placed in the classroom as “emergency hires.”

So am I retired? Of course not… not entirely. I teach 6-8 courses a year in the area of teacher education with 2 per year or so being online in a modified hybrid format. I knew within a few years of beginning my teaching career that I did NOT want my year-to-year fate decided by educational administrators. Although I never fully have left the classroom, I have figured out a variety of ways to tether the classroom to my passion to teach and reach as many as I can who want to work with and better understand young minds.

In short, follow your passions and you can depend less and less on K-12 administrative decisions.

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