By Gene Lieb, Secondary Division Chair-Elect
This summer, I heard my very first podcast. It was a group of former teachers who shared their perspectives about why teachers are leaving the classroom. A lot of information was covered, but the most interesting comment was, “Before you are buried, your job will be posted.” This reminded me that EVERYONE is replaceable, and we must each follow our own path.
Prior to hearing the podcast, I had made a challenging personal decision to step away from a role I had served in for eight years—being the lead FFA Advisor. The program was handed off to an extremely capable teacher. I know some people wondered what I was doing, but it was time for me to challenge myself. I think that we easily become stale in the way we do things and the creativity we provide. The tank wasn’t empty, but it certainly wasn’t full either. I started to ask myself a few questions: Why does giving up a position feel like you’re giving up a part of who you are? What is the rationale behind doing the job forever? I decided that it was time to let someone else challenge themselves and for me to take on other opportunities.
It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make, and I continue to struggle with my choice. It has nothing to do with my faith in the person that took over. They were ready for the challenge and continue to make the program better. I regularly have to remind myself of the reasons why I made this decision. First of all, I was ready to have time to myself. In August, I went on a week-long vacation. For the past nine years, I have never had the flexibility to take a week-long vacation. It was time for a change and I want to be able to travel with my sister and her family. I want to be present for moments and experiences that cannot be taken for granted. Second, it was made clear that I needed to grow more as a professional if I want to continue to flourish. I feel that stepping away from this role has provided me an opportunity to continue to cultivate other strengths.
I’m incredibly lucky to teach in a program where we support one another to do what is needed to feel whole and happy. Four of the five teachers in my department have been together for almost a decade. We know each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and irritations. We all believe in each other and allow each person to thrive in the areas they deem important to them. Every day isn’t perfect or ideal. A note to young teachers: if you’re looking for the television show sitcom of teaching, it doesn’t exist. The people that you work with will see the good, bad, and ugly. Every one of you will be better and more resilient for it.
I count my blessings to be in a space where the team we have allows us to continue to challenge ourselves and be the people we want to be. Remember to support those around you and never be afraid to change everything if you think it’s going to make you happier, healthier, and more fulfilled.