Passion exists inside me, not inside a job

This blog post has been in the works for a couple of weeks now and was coaxed out by Dan Callahan’s post One for the Record Books over at Geek.Teacher. His post reflects on the mixed feelings he has around changing schools, changing positions.

My own recent job change has had me thinking along the same lines.

Dan writes:

I’ll admit to being very conflicted that I’m abandoning a lot of the core elements that have defined my first eight years as an educator. My new position is going to be so drastically different from what I’ve been doing on so many different levels, and it will differ in a lot of ways from what I set out to do when I got my first job.

* I’m going to be moving from a semi-urban district to a much more suburban environment.
* I’m going to be moving from middle school to elementary school.
* I’m going to be leaving special education to work with a much wider portion of the student body.

In my darker moments, I’ll admit, it feels like I’m selling out. While I know that my new position will have its own challenges, I have to admit that those areas highlighted above feel important, and it feels like I’m abandoning them.

As many of you know, I loved my last job. It was infused with ideals of teaching I believe in strongly – working with students who have been marginalized much of their lives and showing them it doesn’t have to always be that way, putting the student before curriculum, the necessity of relationship, the heightened sense of making a difference in students’ lives.

I used to teach students in grades 10 and 11 at an alternative program, kids who were at risk to not graduate high school but were identified as bright, needing a different environment. Close to half of my students were Native students (Mohawk from Kahnawake). I now teach French in an elementary school in a rural area of Eastern Ontario and at first I, like Dan, thought that I was abandoning those ideals I held close by leaving that job.

Those feelings are also entangled with the sense of real abandonment I fear I’ve left my students. You see, I took the new position with 4 days of teaching plus an exam period left in the year at the old school. The decision wasn’t easy but necessary to gain experience in the Ontario school system. I was able to take it because of the tight teaching team that exists in that program. I didn’t leave my students to flap in the wind with a random substitute teacher. I left them with some of the most caring people I know. That is another fear I have, attached to another one of my ideals, that I have left a teaching team that embodies collaboration, caring, and raising the bar for ourselves and our students.

So, while I was excited to be starting something new and to be on the track to better work/life balance by working at a school in my area of the world, I was also thinking about everything I just wrote about. Not to mention the fact that all of this was happening in June, not usually my most energetic month!

Soon into my new job, however, I began to make connections with my colleagues and with my students. The first time a student came to me on the playground, “Madame Tracy, please help,” I thought, “All is good”. I realized that I am still excited about helping kids to learn, though in different ways. And I remembered, it is not my job that defines me but me that defines my job.

I find inspiration when I need it and at the end of my 2nd week at the new school was intrigued by a tweet in my twitter feed from Elona Hartjes:

The link led to a talk on TED by Srikumar Rao called Plug into your hard-wired happiness. The line, “passion exists inside you, not inside a job,” seemed louder than the other lines that were spoken in the video. And I realize that everything is going to be ok because I love and am passionate about working with kids and teachers, about being part of a caring community dedicated to the children within it, about creating hope for the future within community. My job helps me to live out my passions but it isn’t the sum of them.

5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Tracy,
    Congratulations on having the courage to embark on your new path. It’s so exciting.

    I too have lots and lots of special education experience that I use to support reluctant/struggling learners. When I teach my grade 9 math class that is a so called “regular” class I, find that what I’ve learned by being a special education teacher is extremely useful when teaching all kids. The strategies are not magical in any way. They are simply good teaching strategies that all teqachers can use.

    The special ed teaching strategies and insights that I have learned over the 25+ years of giving support to students identified as having learning disabilities or language impairment enable me to help students do the best they can, whatevever that “best” is. Not all students have strengths that let them do well in school.

    What you have learned by supporting reluctsnt/struggling students in the alternative programs will be very useful in your new teaching assignment. What you have learned will not go to waste believe me plus you can share and mentor other teachers as well. You can lead your students and your peers from your heart.

    Good luck. I look forward to reading about your experiences next Fall. I have learned so much from what you share. I look forward to learning more.

  2. Thanks for your comment Elona, your words always mean so much. You are right, each year I teach I realize that experience gained in one area is relevant in others. Teaching really is inside me, the teacher, and not inside a particular teaching position.

  3. Good luck Tracy. I find that any time I go through a career or job change it is so stressful, yet invigorating. Best of luck in finding your stride. You are such a great educator, I know that you will.

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