It was June. I was crossing my fingers, holding my breath, and my heart was pounding as I headed to the office to get my placement for next year. Would I be headed to Reading Recovery as I so desperately wanted, or would I be sticking it out another year in Kindergarten? (For the record, I had taken a half-time leave to pursue my Masters degree the following year. I needed a change and figured this would at least give me that!)
Hmmm. Not what I wanted to hear. I started my career teaching core French a decade ago, and although it was a nice gig at the time, not what I was looking for to advance my career options. I went home, had some tears, got angry, drank wine, and thought, “Is this it? Will this be the next 25 years?” Waiting for someone to decide who and what I get to teach, despite my desires to teach something completely different?
I went to Teacher’s College with the dream to teach primary students, like my mom had done for 30 years. This is an age group that I love, not to mention the curriculum that comes with it. I did a placement in grade two and decided, this is it! This is what I want to teach! Problem was, I didn’t realize that everyone wanted to teach grade two.
When demand does not equal supply, you end up with a lot of teachers teaching grades that are their second, third, or worse, choice. I started out in core French, because if you are French qualified in my board, you’re going to be put there. After French, I got placed in Junior Kindergarten (probably one of the least desired jobs in the system), but I found myself enjoying it. I had a keen interest in the little ones, because I was newly married and planning my own family.
Fast forward a few years and my babies are becoming toddlers, and going to Kindergarten themselves. I am still in my Kindergarten classroom and starting to feel a bit burnt out. Dealing with 20+ three-to-five year olds all day and heading home to be with my own all evening was wearing me out. I started requesting transfers out of Kindergarten and dreaming of my life as a grade one or two teacher where the little tikes weren’t so demanding and needy. When a couple more years went by and I was “doing such a great job in Kindergarten”, I had to try and make the most out of it for my own sanity. I lived through a couple of changes, from JK/SK, to Early Years, to Early Learning, to Year 1/Year 2, to Full Day Kindergarten and the addition of Early Childhood Educators (thank God!). During this, I found if I focused on the parts of the job that made me the happiest, I’d be a better teacher, and frankly, a nicer person to be around.
I started really diving into teaching reading and writing. This became one of my passions. Reading tonnes of stories from my personal library was a spark of joy in my day. I then got involved in some action research projects with Math 4 Young Children, and NOW Play (Writing through Play). These had me feeling that I was bringing more to the profession and people were taking “the Kindergarten teacher” seriously. After being involved in these projects, speaking on International conference stages, and networking with people like Greg Duncan and Doug Clements, I started planning bigger things for my career. I suddenly felt like I had other possibilities. Some of the researchers I was working with tried to talk me into doing my Masters, and although that took a few years, I finally decided I would do it.
I wanted something more than my daily Kindergarten routine. I wanted to find a way to grow professionally as much as possible, while still in the classroom. When the half-time position to teach Reading Recovery came up, I felt that it was the perfect fit. I had heard from every teacher who had taken this training that it would change my teaching forever. Half time teacher, half time Masters work would be perfect, and in exactly the direction I wanted to go. Then I got “Core French”. It felt like I was getting sent back 10 years. When I wanted to keep growing, I was being stifled. So,
Okay, I didn’t just “quit”. That was for effect 😉 But, within a week of being given my new teaching assignment and shedding a lot of tears, my husband was presented with a job opportunity in the city a few hours away. So we took it. I felt that I had less to lose, and this would force me to seek the change I was craving. I put in for a leave of absence and left the classroom.
Over a decade of teaching, I didn’t get a chance to spend even one day in the job that I went to school to pursue. Many people don’t realize this when they go into teaching. Some may think that a teacher is a teacher is a teacher, but we are all unique. We all have different strengths, perspectives, and interests. A biology major who goes to school to teach grade 7 science may not be happy teaching grade one students how to write a persuasive letter. There are so many niches within our career that we often need to be the Jack or Jill of all trades. This keeps us on our toes, but it can also be harder to find the niche that we love and excel in.
The fact that I never got to try the niche of my choosing makes me a bit sad; but at the same time, there are so many lessons that come from this. I have learned and grown so much when reflecting on my experiences, and this experience spurred the drive for me to start something new; but these are other blog posts yet to come. 🙂