I just left teaching: Here are 5 things that will stick with me forever
After a decade of teaching, I’ve realized: once a teacher, always a teacher.
It’s surreal to even write the sentence “I just left teaching”, but here I am. After over a decade of teaching in various early childhood settings, I have officially stepped away from teaching to stay home with my kids and pursue my passion for writing children’s books. Whether that is a forever choice is yet to be seen.
What I have realized since I shared the news is that a “teacher shut off switch” does not exist. There are parts of me that will forever be bonded to the profession and I am certain the immense respect I have for those who are still in the field will not diminish over time.
Related: Dear teachers: You are my hero
Although I have decided to step away, my brain is still in “teacher mode.” Whether I like it or not, when I am at a birthday party I am counting the number of snacks per kid to make sure everyone gets one; when I am at a dance class with my toddler I am fighting back the urge to help manage the group; and I am still wanting to keep random items for “when we might need them for a project.” With time, some of these inclinations may fade but I know some will stay with me forever.
As a former teacher, here are things I will always do
1. I will always pick up on a kid’s special interests as soon as I meet them and use them as a connection point
If a child is wearing a Frozen hat or Paw Patrol shoes, that is the entryway to connect with that kid. Even if they don’t warm up right away, connecting with a child over their interest is a tactic that works wonders with kids. And, they almost always come back to the conversation in the future—whether it’s minutes or days later, they remember that you noticed their favorite thing.
2. I will always advocate for the importance of diverse books in schools
Books are a mirror and a window for children to see themselves and others represented. This is critically important for all children and promotes inclusion across many areas of diversity. I have seen first hand a child seeing someone who looks like them in a book for the first time. It is powerful and important and worth advocating for.
3. I will always look for the exits when I enter a large building or public space
Years of training, plans, practices and drills have unfortunately ingrained a sense of caution that I cannot shake. After enduring countless fire and intruder drills, I will always remember the tenants we were taught for the intruder drills: think of your best place to escape which may include helping children jump out of a window if you’re on the first floor, find a place to hide, keep the kid’s quiet (don’t forget the lollipops in the emergency bag), use learning materials like books, desks, and backpacks to fight off intruders if necessary. The habit of checking for exits has creeped its way into my everyday life and is here to stay.
4. I will always speak up to encourage parents to be their child’s advocate in the school system
As a special educator, I have seen the importance of advocacy in the school system. Whether it is equitable or not, school systems disproportionately benefit parents who are more involved and who speak up for their children. Be their voice if necessary and reach out to as many people as necessary if you feel your child is (within reason) not getting what they need to be successful in school. Start with the teacher—they’re your best bet for quick action and creating a partnership that will benefit your child if you need to take your concerns further. School administration is not as inaccessible as you may believe and you can and should ask them for help if needed. Communities often have parent advocates that you can access. Speak to the school social worker or check out your community’s Facebook page if you need help connecting to an advocate.
5. I will always praise and support teachers and their work in helping our children learn and grow
Teachers are the backbone of our education system. They are the experts in their field and what goes on in their classrooms and they should be treated as such. They undergo special schooling, including supervised teaching before they begin, ongoing training and are the front line in their classrooms, handling curriculum, classroom management and navigating family relationships. They are professional unicorns and should be respected and listened to.
If they’re asking for less meeting time and more planning for their students, give it to them. If they’re asking for more staff so that children are safer during the school day, give it to them. If they’re asking for higher pay, give it to them. If they’re asking for some autonomy, give it to them. I believe teachers are not revered enough in our society. Imagine a world without teachers? Exactly. Let’s give them the support and respect they deserve.
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