When I became a teacher in 2005, I could have become a rich woman if I had requested a dollar for each time I heard, "Don't smile 'til after Christmas." I even sort of naively bought into this notion my first few years of teaching! In fact, in one of my professor's observation notes it was mentioned, "Your classroom management is excellent, but you need to smile more!" That comment has ultimately hung with me even after a decade+ of teaching in my classroom.
When I first starting teaching, I put my students in rows. I did so because that's what I thought teachers were supposed to do. I used every textbook, every workbook, every lined piece of paper activity I could find. I walked my students quietly down the halls, tracked their testing growth, and made my newsletter diligently each week. I did everything I thought I was supposed to do to be a "good" teacher. I was joyless in my profession.
Four years in I was thinking, "Is this it? Is this really what I wanted to do with my life?" At the very least- I was considering a position change, at most- leaving the profession all together. Teaching was not what I thought it was going to be. One day my husband had a very honest discussion with me. He told me how much it hurt him to see me so passionless in my job. As someone who has always been a leader, I had resolved myself to following and had even convinced myself that I wasn't even good at being a teacher. Together we decided it may be good to make a big change.
The next year I began work as a third grade teacher in a new building. I felt excited and renewed. I even mixed up my seating arrangement to include table groups! Then something amazing happened. Our district began a digital initiative. I can only describe this as the spark that reignited my passion for teaching once again. It wasn't just the technology that did it either. It was the amazing and overwhelming philosophies that came with it. For me, using technology has never, ever been about tech. It's been about allowing students the freedom to explore and create in ways previously unheard of.
With this change, I began to find myself excited and energized to come to school. Project ideas and activities that got kids up and moving overwhelmed my brain. I began devouring blogs such as Matt Miller's DitchThatTextbook.com and anything George Couros wrote. I stepped away from textbooks, embraced the PBL movement, curated digital content, relaxed with my students, facilitated learning, flexed my seating, and more! I attended conferences and suddenly found myself wanting to share this passion with other teachers locally which led to presenting around the state and eventually nationally. Sometimes my excitement is too much for some people, and I've learned to refine my passion in such a way that it is not overly aggressive. I get to work with teachers all across the nation with the singular goal of inspiring them to step out of their comfort zone for the sake of kids. There is nothing more amazing than that to me.
Eventually, I've found my way here in the middle school...teaching Digital Literacy which is a course I've had the creative freedom to write and develop using the Indiana Computer Science and ISTE Standards. On a daily basis I get to play, explore, discuss, and create with kids. I smile more these days, and I'm sure my professor would be proud. I look back at twelve years of teaching and smile, shudder, and shake my head at this incredible evolution that's been my teaching career. On that day when I considered saying goodbye to this profession, I would have never dreamed of the position I have now or the opportunities I get to share the gospel of freedom in teaching. I'm oh-so-thankful God didn't allow me to cave to my insecurities, but gave me new life in this profession that allows me to reach so many young people. In the end, it's all about that. The students. Our future. #teachon