How things change.

Due to a number of circumstances and opportunities, I find myself at yet another crossroads. Don’t ask me how I managed to be at my fourth school in three years. It’s actually much less crazy than it sounds. But here I am about to start on Monday with a new-to-me classroom of new-to-me students.

It’s not the first time I’ve started a new school in January. But last time, just three years ago, I was a newbie with absolutely no idea what I was getting into. As a transplant from Michigan to Florida, I didn’t even know what the “FCAT” was. But those first six months of teaching were the best I’ve ever had. No amount of research can ever replace passion for teaching, and in those months I experimented and explored what made my students engaged in learning. I’ll never forget the kinds of discussions we had together about novels, and teaching them about iambic pentameter just a week after teaching them what rhyming words were. They wrote an essay analyzing a story for plot structure for their final exam along with scanning lines of poetry for meter. I did it because they could, and I had no expectation for what they could not do. But then the year ended, and so did my short-term contract. I found another school and enjoyed two years there. Yet nothing was ever quite the same.

I’ve learned. It’s been an adventure.

I’ve experienced first hand what public education is really like (at least in Florida, which tends to be a trendsetter) by teaching in three different districts in Central Florida. As a product of an excellent private school, I was not sure what to expect as a teacher in a public school.

Let me tell you: I’ve met some of the most amazing, passionate people and have been privileged to call them my colleagues. There are far fewer “bad teachers” in these schools than what America believes.

Mostly there are exhausted, frustrated, demoralized teachers who are tired of scripted lesson plans, cookie-cutter “collaboration” and the endless emphasis on Marzano, the unofficial god of education. But they are excellent teachers nonetheless.

They should be recognized for who they truly are, and given the freedom to be creative with their expertise. Who can imagine the wonderful things students would actually learn if teachers could just teach?

But that brings me to where I am now. I found that what I had been doing could not continue, or I would die as a teacher and drop out of education as another “before 4 years” statistic. It was not what I signed up for, but I believe that it can be better. That I can be better. So I mustered up the courage to apply at a charter school near my house, where I will be able to experience freedom and creativity once again.

Let me repeat: No amount of research can ever replace passion for teaching.

If (and when) teachers lose their passion for teaching because checklists of Marzano’s methods and core standards and 21st century skills and common board configurations and data and PLCs and team meetings and RTI and documentation and more data get in the way, schools will lose some of the best teachers that public education has ever seen.

So.

Here’s to a bright future, for both myself and for all of my students, past and present.

Make every day a learning adventure.

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