This episode is special because it marks nearly one year since my official career transition.
It was mid-December of 2021 when I turned out the lights in my 6th-grade classroom for the very last time. Shortly after, I posted my official announcement that I was leaving the classroom. If you are new here or haven’t seen the post, I wrote a kind of love letter in honor of the ten years I spent teaching and shared it on Instagram, and it was my earnest attempt at sharing my passion, emotion, and gratitude for the profession.
At the time, I’d known for almost a month prior that I’d be sharing the news of my decision to pursue a different opportunity, and to be honest I was very nervous. Instagram over the last two years has been rife with teachers posting their decisions to walk away from the profession. Some with sorrow, some with joy, and some feel like they had no other choice. Despite the variety in circumstances, I think those of us who have left would agree that there are a lot of mixed feelings, even when it’s something you’re sure you want.
I always knew that teaching wasn’t a career profession for me. Before I even had my own classroom I just felt that eventually, I’d move to a new space. I didn’t exactly know what that would look like or where that might be, but I knew that a time would come when I would just “know”, and it turns out, I was right. The time did come and I did know. As a former teacher with a new career, I thought this would be the perfect time to reflect on that moment and share what I’ve learned as well as what I’m looking forward to as I also think ahead to the coming new year and fresh possibilities.
Lessons I've Learned as a Former Teacher
I'm going to share with you three lessons I’ve learned in the one year since leaving teaching. I could have recorded this episode months ago but to be honest, I needed the time (and space) to process the transition and the journey I’ve been on to get here.
I was in the classroom for ten years, and while that’s certainly not a lifetime, it’s no small feat either. At this point, ten years is roughly one-third of my lifetime and I think you’ll agree that’s pretty significant.
When teachers leave the classroom, they worry about the things that they will "miss". When I left the classroom, I had dreamed up all of these moments where I thought I’d look back and feel nostalgic. Mainly I thought I’d feel some kind of way about my first time missing certain experiences: my first time not having a spring break, my first time not preparing for an awards day, or my first time not posting back-to-school photos of starting another year. While I knew I wouldn’t regret my choice, after 10 years of so much being the same I thought I might struggle to move beyond the familiar.
The truth is, I left and I didn’t look back. I’m not saying the transition was perfect or easy. There are a number of mindset shifts that I’m still working through, but the shift to my new role has come much easier than I anticipated and I attribute much of that to my time in the classroom.
Lesson #1: Being a teacher makes us adaptable.
I, like many teachers, struggled with perfectionism, saviorism, and the responsibility I felt to be all things to all people. I experienced the pure joy of being loved by students and the utter frustration when they seemed resistant to help. It’s a rollercoaster ride for sure and teachers have to be ready for anything - it’s what makes us so adaptable. All the monitoring and adjusting and shifts that come with the teaching profession prepared me to be flexible. And in this role or any other, I have a new confidence that I can tackle challenges with grace. It’s easy for teachers to shortchange our abilities and capabilities. We know that we do a lot, but it doesn’t become obvious until we’re challenged to use our skills in new environments.
Lesson #2: The title of teacher is just that, a title.
Another lesson I’ve learned is the title of teacher is just that - a title. It is not the sum total of who you are.
Since leaving the classroom I’ve been able to discover exactly what it was about teaching that I loved and identify how I can find opportunities that allow me to show up the same way. Now, you may be thinking that most teachers enjoy helping people, they want to inspire or they enjoy building relationships. While all of that might be true, the discoveries I’ve made about myself go below the surface level. I’ve found that I love facilitating experiences that empower people to capitalize on the strengths they already have. I’m also growth-obsessed and enjoy educating people so they can *hopefully* experience the joy that comes from stepping into the next best version of themselves.
Do you see how these traits could shine through a teacher? And do you also see how these traits aren’t necessarily K12-specific? Identifying, I mean truly identifying the “why” of teaching helped me determine other career opportunities that would allow me to expand my knowledge and skills while still aligning with the essential things I love.
Lesson #3: Know what your core values are.
The final but maybe most important thing I’ve learned as a former teacher is just how important it is to identify your core values. Your values represent what matters most to you. They act as both an anchor and a compass, guiding your choices when you need direction and anchoring you to shore when you drift too far out to sea. From your family to your friends to your career, every aspect of your being and the choices you make are reflected in your core values. I believe it was Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why that says: True authenticity happens when our words and actions align. So, when you can trace your decisions, your relationships, your boundaries, and even aspects of your career to your core values, there’s this harmony that’s created because you’re being true to yourself. As I grow and evolve personally and professionally, I always want to make sure that I’m walking in lockstep with my core values.
My time in the classroom represents a significant part of my journey and I’m grateful for the woman that is still being forged from it. While I stepped away from my role as a K12 classroom teacher, I haven’t stepped away from education or my passion for educating. I will continue to use my gift to empower, inspire, motivate, and advocate. I mean who knows, maybe years from now, I’ll find my way back to K12 in some other capacity where I can truly support teachers, schools, and districts in prioritizing wellness and establishing cultures that promote self and community care.
Maybe I’ll become a renowned author or speaker and I’ll have the opportunity to light even more little fires that spark the revolutionary changes that are long overdue for teachers.
Whatever happens, I’m just excited for the evolution - the becoming - and all the possibilities for the future. I hope that the lessons I’ve shared from my time as a classroom teacher inspire you to reflect on your own journey with gratitude for how far you’ve come and all the becoming that is still yet to be.
Rooting for you always and see you in a future episode!
Resources mentioned in this Episode
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