Sunday, July 7, 2013

You Can Handle the Truth

Truth. Sometimes it creeps up on us. Sometimes it rips right through us like a horrific hurricane. Truth. Sometimes we can ignore it. Other times it's irrefutable. Truth. It can set you free. It can be terrifying. Truth. I had to take a long look at myself as an educator and face it. There it was. In spite of all of my advocacy for a teacher's continued professional growth, in many areas, I had stopped growing. Truth. My enthusiasm and passion for teaching was beginning to fade. How had this happened to me?

At first, I wrote this off as being overly committed. For a full time classroom teacher, I have a full speaking schedule. Although I give my students my first priority, there are a few days where I am out of the classroom. I try to travel as much on weekends and holidays so that I can continue to share my students' stories and the impact that should have on our teaching practice. I also write a monthly column, Plugged In, for the International Reading Association, in addition to pieces that I write for several other educational organizations and the two new books that I have underway. I am also a full time grad student which consumes much of my evenings. This, of course, is in addition to keeping my priorities of faith, family, and friends at the forefront of my life. However, were my commitments really the cause of my light dimming?

As I reflected on these ideas, I realized that my professional commitments were not the cause. Truth was unblinkingly staring me in the face. I had to face the fact that I needed to make a change. Fear set in. Although life in the classroom is never easy or boring, I realized that much of what I was doing had become routine, mundane even (to me). My students still loved to come to school to learn...begged for it even. I didn't want for that to change. How could I have let this happen? I love teaching and learning from my students every day, but I knew that before my practice began to negatively change I had to make a change. I needed to face the fear and find a new challenge.

With this truth staring me in the face, this winter, I began praying and looking for new opportunities. It seemed that everywhere I went to speak or learn, I had amazing conversations with middle level educators. I began to long to return to teach in a middle school. Along my journey, the last several months, I met some of the most amazing English teachers, which reminded me of where I began my profession, teaching English at a urban middle school. And there it was, Truth. I longed to return to where I began my career, as an ELA teacher in a middle school. So many of those teachers had come to learn from me, but what they didn't realize is that they helped me find a path. (Thank you!)

Now that I had a path, I knew I needed to continue to find a new home. Facing some hard truths about why I wasn't growing, I understood what I needed. Iron sharpens iron. I knew that I would need to find a community of learners where I could continue to sharpen my teaching practice. I wanted a place where I had opportunities to collaborate and grow as a professional. I wanted to find a new "home" where I could provide my students with the best learning opportunities that I could offer. A place that was open to new, innovative ideas. A place where teachers and students could be creative. I continued to pray and search for this place. Does this place even exist?

The answer was a resounding, "Yes!" I have found a new home and in the short time since I became part of their team, my passion and creativity has escalated exponentially. Each day, I wake up with a renewed energy and an abundance of ideas. I cannot wait to meet my new students and work with the amazing educators that have already inspired me more than they know. Truth was I had drifted further than even I had known. It wasn't easy to face that truth, but because I did I have a feeling of rejuvenation that I didn't even know was possible.

I realize that this is a very personal story, one that was difficult to share, one that in many ways is out of character for my writing. But, I felt that by sharing, maybe someone would stop and re-evaluate their own choices. Often times as teachers, we make excuses as to why we can't try something new: new strategy, new tool, new practice, new position. I see it all the time. I think we fail to stop and truly look at the truth staring us in face. We may be unhappy in our current situation, but do we stop and look at the truth of the matter? Do we stop and re-evaluate if our decisions are what's best not just for us, but most importantly, for our students? Do we let fear of failure, fear of change, or fear of the unknown stop us? Do we let fear overshadow truth?

That is the real danger, fear....stepping outside of your comfort zone. We can see the truth and let fear stomp it out. If we are stepping into a new position, new school, new district, new community, there will always be those anxious feelings, but we cannot let that cloud the truth. As long as we are educators, we must remain passionate and excited about what we do everyday. Without that, our lights will dim; we will lose our drive to meet the needs of every student. Truth is that our profession is crucial for the success of future generations. Our learners are counting on us. Will you stop and look at Truth?

Epilogue: Yes, I have found a new "home." I will be teaching 6th graders ELA at Rock Quarry Middle School. I am so excited to be able to learn from and collaborate with the amazing educators there, many of whom have already reached out and welcomed me to their team.


  1. Thank you for sharing that Julie. I love the honesty in what you wrote. I think this is a road that we all come to at some point. I'm now thinking about myself and have been contemplating the need for a change for a while. I've been teaching 5th grade for 16 years. Maybe reading this will be the push I need to get out of my comfort zone.

  2. I would love to become a more student driven teacher, but I find it difficult to break the habit. I learned by lecture, I have taught by on earth do I teach Chemistry by putting it into my students' hands? I have become so frustrated this year (a non-eval year) that I have sought extra help dealing with my feelings and I am so anxious about next year that I am trying new things this year so it is not such a shock next year during an eval year. The problem is I worry that I never learned how to teach in the first place...I just present... My students have been successful in the past, but is that because they are just recalling information or are they actually learning? I don't know anymore...