Like far too many educators, I was ready to quit.
By David Horan
There is nothing easy about teaching. Throughout my life, things have usually come pretty easy to me. When I was in college, classmates would comment on how I seemed to make things look effortless. I was asked why I was going into education when I could do anything I wanted. However, teaching was what I wanted. It was my calling and I wanted to make a difference. Since I have become a teacher, I’ve learned that no matter how much of a natural born teacher you are or how hard you work on your craft, it is still hard.
During my teaching career, there have been several moments where I have wondered if I was making the difference I had hoped. Moments where I felt like I was doing the best I knew how, but it just wasn’t enough. This past year was exceptionally hard. I began to have these thoughts on a regular basis.
I understood that the first few years of teaching would be hard, but this was my ninth! Shouldn’t things be getting easier? After a culmination of events, I had to really stop and think about the future of my career in the classroom. Like far too many educators, I was ready to quit.
Later in the year, I received a district email about an opening for a new position as a technology integration coach. This seemed like the answer I was looking for. I would get to stay in my district, work in classrooms, and share my expertise with multiple teachers and schools. I felt like this position was created just for me, but apparently, it wasn’t meant to be.
It was an imperfect end to a really rough year. The rejection was hard to receive. I certainly wasn’t feeling successful anymore at what I thought was my calling in life. The career to which I had invested my time, money, and much of my heart was turning into more of a nightmare than the dream I had had in college.
Then a teacher leadership opportunity with Hope Street Group came to the rescue, just in time! I had interviewed to be a Utah Teacher Fellow (TF) the same week as interviewing for the coaching position. When I heard that I had been accepted as a TF, I really had no idea what to expect since we were the first cohort in the state.
I walked into our summer Orientation and was blown away by the group of educators that had been assembled. This was a group of truly amazing teachers, several had even won the accolade of State Teacher of the Year! (The National Network of State Teachers of the Year, NNSTOY, co-facilitates the Utah Teacher Fellowship, with former Utah Teachers of the Year serving as mentor fellows.) Being able to rub shoulders and glean as much information as possible from these professionals has been invaluable in and of itself. But what really made it great was that I was an integral part of the group, and I had a lot to offer as well.
With Hope Street Group, I had found a place where I felt valued. How refreshing it was to again have someone believe in and support me: a feeling I hadn’t felt much lately. Director Tabitha Pacheco and my TF peers saw me as a leader and I felt that I had a voice in important matters in education once again. Reenergized, I began this school year more excited than ever.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this fellowship has been helping other teachers have the same opportunity to be heard. I helped sponsor four focus groups with teachers from around the state in October. We were able to discuss what helped them feel valued, their thoughts on teacher leadership, and to look for positive teacher-inspired solutions to the problems we face.
I have been lucky to have had amazing support from my colleagues at my school and several wonderful administrators during my teaching career. Although my class this year has been one of my best, there is still nothing easy about teaching. Teaching is hard. I still have days where I feel like my best isn’t enough. However, I now feel I am a part of something bigger again. Being affiliated with HSG and NNSTOY is akin to having my own personal PR firm sharing the amazing things I’m doing!
I am thankful for the opportunities that Hope Street Group has provided for me to grow this year. The Fellows program has given teachers in Utah an outlet to express their ideas and opinions. I feel grateful when people comment on my performance this year, as I must attribute most of this new found energy to my participation in the Hope Street Group.