After 18 years of teaching in an elementary school in rural eastern North Carolina, it was time for a change. But I definitely didn’t get the change I had in mind. When an opening in a school in a neighboring county was available, I pursued it quietly, just as we do in the South. It was my dream job, and sure enough, I got it: small classes, administrative and parental support, a degree of professional autonomy I hadn’t known since I taught in New York years ago. I was immediately accepted and valued, and I thrived. So much so that I planned to spend the remaining years of my career until retirement blissfully teaching and learning in that same place. It was the best year of my career – until I was fired.
A “reduction in force” meant the last person hired would be the first to be fired, and, despite the herculean efforts of my principal, I was let go. It was the worst end to the best year of my life.
Along came another opening, another “show.” My interview for a mystifying job as an Early College Liaison at a high school in the same district felt more like an audition. The commute was longer, but otherwise it was a dream job of which I’d never dreamed. It meant more money, flexing a different skill set, less stress, and an opportunity to learn. Teenagers weren’t as scary as I had anticipated. I made a difference for some and became a lifelong friend to others. I was even involved in the exchange program with Salzgitter, Germany. It was a year of joyful exploration and growth, until the institution administering the grant that funded my salary abruptly and unexpectedly closed. I had lost another dream job. That made two jobs lost in my entire life and both in the same year.
I didn’t have time to mourn, though. Soon I found myself having to choose between taking a Praxis® battery to become a high school science teacher and returning to the wonderful elementary school I had loved in the same classroom in which I had flourished the year before. Ultimately, the choice that was a better fit for my true calling, my passion, and yes, my area of National Board Certification, won – I returned to the elementary school I loved. This story is neither a “silver lining” anecdote nor an “it was meant to be” tale at all. It’s about the process of self-reflection and professionalism that has remained with me since my initial National Board Certification and subsequent renewal. I am capable and driven to be the best I can be, regardless of the challenges.
Another year of teaching 3rd Grade is in the books. It’s still a dream job. I’m writing this from the airport on my second trip to Germany with high school students. Salzgitter is a small town whose people see it a little differently when we share the way it looks through our eyes. They do the same for us when they visit. This has all the trappings of another “best year.”