Why I Stay: A Veteran Teacher’s POV
I’ve been asked recently “With all you’ve done in your career you must be ready to move on. So what’s next?”
It’s been freaking me out a little to see the number of people in my professional circles who have left their current positions in the last year. Like I’m wondering why I’m NOT leaving.
Is it time?
Have I done all I can do at Amador? Have I reached my goals? Have I given what I have to give to these kids, to this community? Do I still belong in education? Could I be doing other things?
So it got me thinking about why I stay. Why I continue to be happy and content to find my best self in my best work with the best kids I could dream of. Also I love lists.
In a totally free flowing order about why I stay in teaching and why I’m staying at Amador for a 15th year…
- I find the challenges of reinventing our organization every few years endlessly interesting. My brain spins non-stop about the various things I want to improve instructionally, organizationally, and pedagogically. Institutional knowledge allows for the unique perspective over time of what sticks and what doesn’t.
- I LOVE teaching 9th graders. A lot. Like if I could teach 9th grade band all day I might. They are earnest and responsive. They want so hard to please you by getting “it” right right away. They don’t understand how gravity works and have spatial awareness challenges that make even me look coordinated. They laugh at my jokes and trust the history I share and the legacy we are building.
- I get to make amazing music with my kids. Every day. Real art. It’s not play time people.
- The energy and effort I give on the podium comes back to me 5-fold when my students have a break through. And it happens daily. When a class discussion results in my mind being opened . When the students play a passage with beauty and control. When they support me in a moment of vulnerability. When they do something completely ridiculous and I laugh really really hard.
- I like the rhythm and predictability of these 56 minute classes that each day are actually a new adventure. Like the clock and calendar are the framework and that doesn’t change much. But the mood, energy, and focus of 50+ teenagers will vary wildly day to day, hour to hour. And that is something I love (mostly.)
- Greeting my kids at the door as they enter. Saying good bye as they exit. Small connections that build our relationships one hello at a time.
- Conducting pieces over again. I don’t repeat repertoire in the time that my students are in the band. But I’ve been teaching long enough that I have conducted some pieces multiple times. As I’ve changed and gotten older I approach familiar pieces with a different process. It’s quicker. More efficient. And I’m less afraid of playing SLOW.
- Thank you notes and emails from kids and parents. To know you’ve made a difference. That your work hasn’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated. When you’re told you’ve been like a father. When you’re told you’ve saved a life.
- Trust. Trust built over time with students, parents, community. Amador is the place I’ve been the longest in my life. And I like that. I still feel 28. But I’m not. I was reminded of this when a 9th grader (see #2) asked me how long I’ve been at Amador and I was able to say while gasping for air “As long as you’ve been alive!”
- Leaving the band room at the end of a long day or long week and knowing it will be there to welcome me back with a familiar warmth and comfort that I’ve come to love.
- Turning the lights off and walking across the darkness of the band room and knowing I won’t trip on a single thing because I’ve walked that walk thousands of times.
I could list so many more. Maybe for another time? But staying is worth it. Maybe I needed to affirm for myself. Thanks for allowing some self-indulgence.
I know that I’m right where I want to be doing the things I want to do with the people I’m meant to do it with.
And while nothing is forever, I’m feeling good about the run we’re having, Amador and I.