Time for a Change

For the first time, I’m hoping that the audience that reads this is small. I’m hoping that hardly anyone I know will notice, especially not my students or my colleagues, or, dare I say it, the administrators in my school or my district. TEN FORTYISH

The truth is, it’s time for a change. Soon…

I’ve been a teacher for 14 years now. I love it. I love my job. I love doing something important, I love the challenge of being an educator responsible for students 190 or so days a year, and I love that learning seeps into every day of my job.

I’m an elementary trained teacher with a specialty in the intermediate years. My first 7 years of teaching were at the elementary level. In that time, I taught all grades from K-7 in some sort of teaching assignment.

Nearly seven years ago, I transferred to the local high school as the art teacher. It’s a dream job, my own little utopia, really. The art program thrives with ~2/3 of students in the school spending time in the art room each year. This is partially due to the constant popularity of the photography courses which constantly transform as more and more technology finds it’s way into my practice. When I started in the school seven years ago, the only photography course was 10 weeks long and offered an introducation to black and white photography using traditional darkroom techniques and manual SLR cameras. Now I teach two Media Arts courses that have curriculum ranging from the basic traditional black and white approach, digital photography and image editing units to video projects on the only Mac computer in the school.

The change I can feel coming, the change that I feel deep in my being as needing to happen, is the move back to being an elementary teacher.

History lessonI miss being an elementary classroom teacher. I miss the classroom experience. I love my job at the high school but I miss the younger students and I miss teaching the full range of subjects. I miss teaching writing, I miss teaching math, I miss teaching science and I miss that rythym that comes from teaching the same students in the same room day after day. I love my multi-age classroom that always seems to have students working in at least four different courses at once and I know that there are many things about my current job that I’ll miss once the change is made, but regardless, the change needs to be made. The risky thing, the toughest part to reconcile in my mind is, once I leave, there will be no going back. There will be no returning to that perfect job. And yet I still want to leave.

I’ve thought about this for some time now. I’ve sensed for awhile that I would not want to retire as the art teacher. I think of my mother telling me that it’s not good to teach the same thing for more than about five years or so because it gets routine,it can get boring and you get tired of doing the same thing over and over. I’m not the type of person who does well with boredom.

One of the things I love about teaching is that it is never boring, it’s never routine and I never do the same thing over and over again. But after teaching in the same job, even with all the changes I’ve made each year, I do feel that routine setting in. That boredom. That sense of sameness. It took me ten years to have the same teaching assignment for the third year in a row. At the time I loved it – the joy and relaxation of being able to take out a unit taught and tweaked twice before! To not have to re-invent the wheel, only shine it up a little…  It was heaven! But even with all the tweaking, and the endless approaches to teaching drawing, painting, art history, and photography, I’m finding it too much the same. 

One of Those DaysIt’s sad really.

Not unexpected, but still sad. I’m one of those people who needs stability to thrive and I know that change is coming.

It’s coming, whether I like it or not.


Images from Flickr: TEN FORTYISH by btm,  History lesson by Elephi Pelephi, One of Those Days by Tim Cummins

11 thoughts on “Time for a Change

  1. Okay, I found it and I have read it. Of course I am not an administrator or a colleague, so no need to worry.

    I admire you for taking the time to think through what kind of a change you would like to make to keep you sharp and enjoying teaching. In 1986, I had about the same degree of experience as you … 15 years and 12 in the same district … and I decided to make the change to leave education. It was a good choice and it allowed me to explore some of my other interests and talents. In 1999 I came back and now, as we go into 2010, I’ve made the change to decide to leave again, this time likely for the final time.

    Teaching elementary school is so great, and it is great for all the reasons you list in your post and then some.

    I’m gathering that you probably have a bit of time ahead of you as 2010 moves forward to put your thinking in to action. I wish you all the best.

    Cheers… Bob

  2. You’ve obviously thought long & hard about this and covered the pluses & minuses (& dare I say it the “interesting” :-)). Sometimes you just have to go with what feels right. I too have taught both high school and primary school and, whilst I enjoyed my time with senior students immensely, I am loving that special relationship with kids you spend most of your day with.

    Good luck with whatever you end up doing!

  3. Speaking of mothers advice, mine always told me to “Be what you Love”. Go with your heart. It takes lots of courage to make big change – most never do. Thank you for sharing your thought process – it is so refreshing to see someone true to their inner-self.

  4. I was initially worried about writing this post, but I’m already glad that I did.

    @Bob – I think that you’re point about “enjoying teaching” is at the heart of the matter. I don’t ever want to dislike teaching. It’s too important of a job to be done by someone who doesn’t want to be there. That’s the worst type of teacher I could see myself being and I think that I’d head in that direction if I stayed where I am for the rest of my career. Thanks for commenting!

    @Pam – Nice to hear from you! I enjoy working with teenagers much more than I ever expected but there is something very special about working with children, isn’t there? Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. Thanks Theresa, for the supportive and encouraging words. I’m exceedingly grateful that I do get to ‘do what I love’ everyday. I keep reminding myself that I’d still get to teach art and integrate digital photography in an elementary classroom so I wouldn’t really be leaving that aspect of my job at all!

  6. Errin,

    I enjoyed reading your post. Many people get stale in their jobs and don’t seek the change that they may realize would be good for them. Your situation is interesting in that you haven’t gotten stale; as you said “It’s a dream job, my own little utopia, really.” Change can be unsettling, but that’s not a bad thing.

    For various reasons I made a big change three and a half years ago from teaching mostly gr 11 and 12 biology in a bricks and mortar school to teaching grade 8 – 12 science and math in a distributed learning school. The change involved not only changing schools and courses but changing districts and going from a full time continuing contract to a 0.4 temporary contract. It was unsettling making that decision, but I’m glad I did. The change has been good for me and for my family.

    I wish you all the best as you go forward with this.

  7. Hi Claire,
    Yes, that’s why it’s so difficult for me to rationalize the upheaval associated with the change – I have a great job! I had no idea you had made such a risky career move yourself. That took courage! That’s the type of situation I see myself getting into (temporary contract, partial assignment) and it’s good to know that you had a happy ending with your change. Thanks, as always, for the comment 🙂

  8. So good to hear of another teacher who is reflecting and considering the effect of their actions. As a fellow high school teacher, I’m sorry to hear the think of you leaving the HS considering the passion you obviously have for your subject. I have two kids in high school and one of them absolutely loves her photography class.

    That said, as a parent, I’m glad to hear about someone who could also be passionate in the elementary classroom. I don’t have any kids in elementary school anymore, but I sure do worry about the state of education at the elementary level (and all levels).

    Glad to hear you are concerned about being stagnant in the classroom as well. That takes a lot of guts and a lot of work! I hope your decision brings you the joy you are looking for. 🙂


  9. My Dad always said, “A change is as good a rest.” You know how much I thought of my Dad. I agree with Ken, you will excel where ever you are and whatever you do. but I will miss you.
    ’nuff said.

  10. It’s always interesting for me to see which posts get the comments. In my 16 months of this blog, it seems to be the posts with a strong emotional connection that encourage people to comment. I’m guessing that those are the posts that I most effectively ‘attach my voice to’, to borrow a line from Canadian author and storyteller Richard Wagamese.

    Thanks to Ken and Meddles for the support. I have so much respect for both of you.

    @Fzzxtchr – thanks for commenting! Love the name, very clever! I do love teaching at the high school and teaching art and photo is about as good as it gets. I do think that I could do more for more kids as an elementary teacher. I’ve had many parents come up to me since making the switch to HS and ask ‘why aren’t you teaching English? Socials? Grade Seven?’. They were happy when I taught one of their older children and want me back to teach their younger children. That’s good feedback and it always makes me stop and think and wonder…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *