What are you most proud of to date in your teaching career?
Back in September, while taking part in my first blogging challenge, I answered a question similar to this in another post. I was asked to reflect upon an accomplishment that I held dear that might have been unknown to others. In the process, I recognized that I viewed my greatest professional achievement to be finding the courage to set myself on a new course for learning and personal discovery, after reluctantly concluding that I was no longer able to burn my candle at both ends. Surprisingly, that uncharted course involved my taking a self-imposed sabbatical, without a plan B, much to the surprise of those with whom I worked. Three years ago, I made the decision to resign at the end of my contract.
Since then, I have been in the midst of a transition. While I quickly concluded that I still feel called to teach, I am proud of myself for determining that I am able to approach it differently than I once did.
Since making that difficult decision, I've taken courses, tinkered, done some subbing, and taught a computer skills course for a year. While I will admit that I've had intense pangs of regret that I didn't just ask for a year off, rather than deciding to make a clean break, I know that I needed to impose a period of dormancy upon myself in order to ensure that I was on the right path. While it may sound weak or perplexing to those who may easily succeed at finding a balance that feeds them, I absolutely needed to remove myself from the responsibilities of being a full-time classroom teacher in order to know for sure that I actually need to teach. Teaching nourishes my soul, as long as I don't let it overshadow the other parts of my identity, such as being a wife, mother, and artist.
Therein lies the paradox that Parker Palmer so eloquently describes in his book, The Courage to Teach. One of the best things that I've done for myself and my career has been participating in Northeast Courage and Renewal. It helped me realize that I was not alone in my quest to find balance between my personal and professional lives. It helped me understand that the reason I often felt so overwhelmed and exhausted was because I cared so much, and that my feelings of inadequacy had come from a place of not attending to my "inner teacher." I'm not trying to suggest that I never fall back into the old habits of putting too many logs on my fire (please consider reading Judy Sorem Brown's beautiful poem on the importance of breathing space), but I am learning to practice self-compassion. This will impact everything else about who I am as a teacher for the rest of my life.
I am proud of the ways that I've changed during this transition, and the ways that I've opened myself up to new opportunities and patterns of thinking.