Today’s episode is one that I’ve wanted to record for a while but I got caught up overthinking the “how” and the “when.” In all honesty, I’ve been struggling these past few months with a bit of an “identity crisis” since I transitioned out of the classroom and I decided it was time to just share my heart with the community here and be real about some of the unforeseen challenges I’ve experienced since leaving the teaching profession.
When I set out to record this podcast last summer, I knew that I wouldn’t teach forever. If you’ve listened to any of my previous episodes, especially Episode 7 and Episode 8 or you know me well, then you know that teaching was never my long-term plan. I didn’t necessarily know what the next steps were, heck, I still don’t! But I just always felt in my spirit that teaching would not be my only career.
When I started this podcast, though, I did so not knowing that the transition would happen this year and that it would happen so quickly. I was ready for a change in so many ways - both personally and professionally. Starting my new job was smooth and easy. The skills I cultivated and nurtured as a teacher were immediately applicable in my new environment. I made fast friends. I added value to meetings and initiatives. I quickly plugged into projects and fostered collaborations. I’ve even been able to implement some new ideas into the space that are clearly inspired by my days as a classroom teacher, like our connections bulletin board in our office.
The truth is that, from the day I walked out of my middle school classroom in December of 2021, I never looked back. I’ve had no hesitation about the transition and it’s been incredibly affirming to know that I can and do add value outside of a classroom.
In all of my readiness, however, there have still been some unexpected challenges, as with any change. We often conflate desire with ease and it’s never that simple. Just because we want something doesn’t make it easy, nor does it invalidate the feelings that may come as a result. When I left the classroom, I thought the hardest part would be telling people. I anticipated harsh judgment and skepticism about my choice. I knew my friends and family would ultimately support me, but I worried that you all might not understand. That you’d assume I was a quitter or “not in it for the right reasons.” I worried that the connections I’ve built as the AfroEducator might dissipate because maybe you’d feel that you couldn’t relate to me anymore.
But you showed me something entirely different. You cheered me on. You supported my decision. You told me you were proud and that you knew I’d do great things. It was more than I could hope for and was the affirmation I needed. The hard part, though, has been mostly an internal battle as I struggle with who I was, who I want to be, and who I am now. There’s a lot about this time that feels like limbo and I’ve had a hard time figuring out how that impacts the space I’ve created here and online.
Though I’ve left the classroom I’m still passionate about teacher wellness and systemic change for K12, but I no longer occupy the space that originally inspired The AfroEducator in the first place. I find that I want to continue doing this work, but not in isolation. After all, even when I was a teacher, there was so much more to me beyond my presence in a classroom. I’m a wife. A phenomenal black woman. A friend. A daughter. A sister. Cooking for others is my love language and my soul craves music. I also love creating cozy safe spaces and I often venture down Google rabbit holes.
I am so much more than just a teacher...
... and I am still working through what it means to express that with this community that has connected with me on the basis of our shared experiences. In essence, I’m learning what it looks like to evolve when your evolution includes your community and your business.
The other day on Instagram, Michelle Emerson, of Pocketfulofprimary, posted a caption that really spoke to me. She talked about how many comments she’s received regarding her decision to step away from teaching. People telling her they enjoyed her teacher content better when she was a classroom teacher and sharing they wished she’d made a different choice. In a previous post, she even shared that out of all the comments and messages she’s received, not ONE asked about her happiness or well-being since leaving the classroom. It’s as if people expected her to remain stationary. In her most recent post, Michelle reminds us that people are allowed to change and that even in growth there are layers that make us who we are.
If you loved my teaching content, then I hope you understand that it’s the person whose experiences and perspectives shaped that content that you are really connected to. Anyone can share tips, but it’s our unique worldviews that connect us to ideas.
In this season, as I figure out how to show up in this space that has been a hub of teacher tips and hacks for so long, know that my passion for k12 exists alongside other passions and pieces of my identity too. I hope we can use this space to pursue growth together and I look forward to the opportunity to empower and inspire you to step into a more confident, conscious, authentic version of yourself. Whether you’re a new teacher, a veteran teacher, or a former teacher, I want you to know that this space is for our shared journey. Our shared becoming. I hope that through this platform, we can laugh, cry, struggle, process, and celebrate together as we determine how we can show up fully and honestly as the multi-passionate beings we are in all the roles we play and the spaces we occupy.
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
Episode 8: Why Teachers Leave: Toxicity, Tolerance, and Transitions with Daphne Gomez
Find out your teacher type!