You’re doing what?!? Guilt and career choices in education.

Confession: I have been flitting in and out of the classroom for several years, struggling to find my right place in education. Since my profession does not yet provide a career lattice, I can’t find my exact fit. I am a square peg that keeps trying to fit into a series of round holes.

2009:  I worked around the state and country, representing Florida’s teachers and students in matters of policy and practice as 2010 Florida Teacher of the Year.  I loved the multiple lenses from which I learned to view education, but I missed teaching the little ones.

2010:  I returned full-time to a special education classroom. I was in my own little slice of heaven as I became re-affiliated with my craft as an educator. But there was a little hiccup. Or barrier, I should say. I was still accepting opportunities to share my perspective, and was away from my students for more than forty professional days. Yikes.

2011:  I redefined my classroom walls and became Educator in Residence at the University of Central Florida, working with teachers-to-be.

2012:  I returned to the K-12 classroom again (are you dizzy yet?). This time, I was working as a teacherpreneur through a unique partnership with my school district and the Center for Teaching Quality. This hybrid role allowed me to work in my fifth grade classroom half the day, and lead outside the classroom the other half. I cultivated teacher leadership in others and advocated for educational transformation.

2013: Next year, I will be working in teacher education at Mount Holyoke College. I am overflowing with excitement for this new adventure, but have landed on a realization.

People view this as a step up. A move “up” the career ladder. But is it really? I think it’s more of a move over. It’s still teaching, but in a different capacity.

But I see the faces of my fifth graders and my heart gets a little heavy. I’ve received a mixture of reactions from colleagues. Most are happy for my choice, but many reply with some version of “I’m so sad you are leaving the classroom.” Oi vey, it makes a girl feel guilty.

Why do I feel this way? After all, in the arid landscape of the teaching profession, there are few opportunities to advance without leaving the K-12 classroom. To exercise professional muscles we never knew we had. To improve education beyond our own instruction.

And too, our schools need great school leaders and administrators. We need teachers who are completely embedded in thinking about professional development or who are working as full-time mentors to ensure successful induction. And we need for the next generation of teachers to be trained by people who really know pedagogy.

How could we “have it both ways,” guilt-free? Imagine if every district offered teacherpreneur roles that let teachers grow as leaders without distancing themselves from students. Or feeling guilty.

We’re not there yet.

I will miss my little students immensely. But I know that I am working on a larger scale to ensure that in the future, they are in capable, highly-effective hands.

And I will keep pushing and working alongside others to change the landscape of professional choices in education. To ensure that teachers can make a wider array of career moves that challenge us and benefit our students. I will join colleagues in the CTQ Collaboratory as we work to elevate our profession… guilt-free.