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Former Teacher, Forever Educator

This is my first episode in over a month and I’m so happy to be back. A LOT has changed since I released the last episode and I really just want to spend some time getting you all up to speed and opening up to you guys about some of those changes!

I am always bragging on my Instagram about how incredible you all have been in supporting me and the work that I do around teacher wellness. You all are not only supportive, but you’re also open and authentic, and you guys truly connect with me through our shared experiences and beliefs. So, I thought it only fitting to start my first episode of the new year reciprocating that love.

If you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen that, about a month ago, I announced that I resigned from my teaching position. If you missed that post - or you’re new to my community - I encourage you to go check it out, it’s called “To All the Kids I’ve taught Before.” This post is a combination of a love and goodbye letter I penned to the students I’ve taught over the years. I wrote it on behalf of all of the educators who have, or may, transition to different roles in the future. I wanted to articulate the nuanced feelings that leaving this profession entails. I also wanted to communicate how deeply I’ve loved my students and how much they’ve taught me.

At this moment, I am officially a former teacher, and to be honest, this transition has been years in the making. I want you to know that my decision to leave the teaching profession has been a decade in the making and NOT because I’ve lost hope for the work.

My close friends and family know that I never saw myself teaching forever. In fact, I knew before I graduated college that teaching would be “seasonal” for me. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after and I didn’t have any specific goals that I wanted to reach, but I just felt in my gut that I wanted to do more beyond the classroom. Even though I didn’t know what more would be, I knew I’d figure it out along the way. My transition out of teaching has been a years-long process filled with mindset shifts and unexpected self-work. This is far more than leaving a career: it’s reframing parts of your identity, coming home to yourself, and thinking outside of the “teacher box.”

At one point, my “teacher self” had eclipsed my identity so much that I struggled to see myself beyond lesson plans, instructional strategies, and behavior management. I thought that this was necessary to be great. I thought you had to “die to your teacher self” to truly serve your students. Over time though, and with lots of self-work along with the help of countless supportive people in my life, I have been able to deconstruct that narrative in ways that facilitated my personal and professional wellbeing. I’ve realized that it is who I am - an empath, a storyteller, and a comedian - that made me a great teacher and will help me thrive in whatever position I choose beyond that.

My goal with this show is always to be open. So in the spirit of authenticity, I wanted to share this news with you and I want to let you know that, though Alexis Shepard is beginning a new chapter, The AfroEducator isn’t going anywhere.

Over the last few years, my work as The AfroEducator has been more rewarding than I ever thought possible: from the opportunities to empower educators, to the friendships I’ve forged through this platform. My goal as a Teacher-Wellness Advocate is to empower educators to teach and live authentically. This means showing up in all the spaces you occupy as the best, true version of yourself.

For the last three years, I’ve taken every opportunity to sound off about self-care for educators and what it really means to prioritize your wellbeing both in and out of the classroom. Ultimately, my message boils down to the fact that true self-care is about self-awareness and making choices in the present that honor and serve your future self. It’s about reflection and perspective, accountability and compassion. To me, self-care is the vehicle by which educators can be empowered to teach and live more authentically.

Whether you intend to teach for a season or a lifetime, my hope is that I can share experiences and practical strategies which help you show up in your classroom and in your life as your best self. I will continue to:

  • Challenge you to reframe your perspective again and again in the name of becoming your true, authentic self.

  • Encourage you to identify your core values and make decisions that reflect your priorities.

  • Explore the intersection of self-care and systemic reform for the teaching profession because it’s what teachers and students deserve.

  • Use the power of words to affect change.

As I transition to a new phase of my career, I want you to know how grateful I am for your presence and your support. I know that many of you have felt frustrated or overwhelmed over the last few months. Forced normalcy and exaggerated expectations for this school year have left many of you weary - and rightfully so! Teachers are - and have always been - expected to fill the holes of a failing system. Now, after years of learning amid a pandemic and panic about learning loss, teachers feel even more pressure to look at students as achievement statistics rather than human beings. We all know this isn’t sustainable. Overhaul, at this point, should be non-negotiable. The reality though, is the change needed will take time.

The system wasn’t created in a day, so we can’t expect quick change - as infuriating, frustrating, and heartbreaking as that may be. What we can do is commit to individual work that contributes to the collective cause. In future episodes of this podcast, I will continue to share ideas and strategies that support educators in creating more authentic, inclusive, and autonomous spaces. I look forward to sharing and relating my experiences from my decade as a teacher to empower you to do just that. For teachers who desire to live authentically in new spaces, I’ll also be sharing my transition out of teaching and all the lessons I learn along the way.

January marked the start of the new year. Which for a lot of us, symbolizes the possibility of new opportunities and fresh starts. I’m not really much of a new year’s resolutions kind of person, but I do believe in New Year’s renewals. In 2022, I’m going to continue focusing on what matters most which is living authentically and empowering educators to do the same. I want to do what I love, spend time with people I love, and ultimately invest my time into the things that I value and the things that bring me joy. I also hope to continue to serve the teacher community in ways that uplift and empower, especially during a season where it’s easy to feel hopeless.

My wish for you is 2022 is filled with renewal and hope and coming home to yourself again and again.

I’m grateful for each and every person who contributes to the community here. I promise that I will continue using my voice and my words to amplify the experiences of educators and empower you to take action towards change.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

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