This year has been hard.
Not only have my husband and I been in a holding pattern, but I’ve also been struggling to find my place and my own direction. I’m constantly plagued by questions. Where are we headed? What do I want to do? Where do I want to go? How do I want to make an impact on the world? How can I affect the future?
And, the most damaging of all… Is it enough?
As educators, we watch the career trajectories of those around us. The expectations are endless, from going back to get your Master’s, to transitioning into a position outside of the classroom, to working your way up the ladder into administration. It seems that the focus is consistently on upward mobility, on what’s next, and on how we are going to get there.
The expectations set for me have been clear since the beginning. Most people are being kind when they say things like, “Oh you’re going to do big things one day” or “When are you going to move up to a leadership position?” I know those comments are all meant in the nicest way and said with the most loving tone.
But I’ve been struggling. Because how do I combine my desire to teach with the expectations other people have?
If I stay in the classroom, bringing my heart and soul into what I do, will it be enough?
The feelings of inadequacy are not unique to me, and I’m confident that they are not mine alone. Knowing that has been comforting, but has not yet led me to a solution or an answer. I’ve continued to struggle with the idea of meeting or exceeding the expectations of others, and I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time planning for a huge, flashy future that I’m not even sure I want.
Because the truth is, I absolutely love what I do.
Being in my classroom every single day is exactly where I want to be. Providing an education for students that expands their literacy skills and helps them become better humans is exactly what I want to be doing.
I cannot imagine myself outside of my classroom. I cannot imagine myself not working with students. I don’t see it.
And that’s got to be okay.
I believe in education. That’s why I became an educator. I firmly believe that, in my classroom, I am affecting change in the world. I believe that my impact is meaningful, important, and lasting. It may not be big or flashy or seen as ‘important’, but it matters. I know it does. Because I can see it every day.
I wrote once about considering teachers professionals, and I was challenged by another educator. They asserted that the view of our professionalism must begin with us, the educators.
At the time, I was in disbelief. Of course we view ourselves as professionals, I thought. Why would we discount our own importance?
But we do. We do it all the time when we assume every educator must take the next step, must move up, must leave the classroom for something bigger, something more.
Our world needs to shift our focus away from the norm of upward mobility and towards value. Value for all roles in education, whether they be expansive or intimate. We must begin to see all educators as meaningful, and view what they do as impactful.
Because all of it is.
Whether you make decisions for an entire state or a classroom of students, it matters. If your responsibility is to 2,000 educators or 20 students, it is an important one. Whether your role is educating teachers or educating students, you are an educator.
And that will always be enough.