Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Should I Stay or Should I Go

This past year, I have spent my time teaching American Literature in the morning and teaching teachers technology in the afternoon. I fought hard for this position and I have loved working with teachers across my district. I knew we had amazing teachers in every building, but getting to see them in action, is a very different thing all together.

The downside of all of this is having one foot in the classroom and one foot in the administration building. I strive to be the best at what I do all of the time. It causes more stress than I probably need, but I find it hard not to give my all in something I do. Because of this, I'm running myself ragged. As I constantly reinvent my curriculum to meet the needs of my students and keep content fresh, I find myself playing catchup in the tech job. As I dive into my tech job looking for sites and tools to help teachers and buildings, I find myself playing catch up in the classroom. Trying to be effective in two places might make me slightly less effective in both. Is that possible?

Their have been rumors of my position as a tech guy going away, becoming full time or changing completely. I've suggested there should be a head of the technology arm of the district that is only focused on tech, so that could happen. I have opportunities outside of my district to explore as well. The big question for me is whether I want to leave the classroom or not and if I do, I need to answer the question of "Why".

I love being in the classroom and working with my students. I love the creative element as I plan new lessons and projects. I also wonder if I have done all I can in this world. There are always new projects, but will I ever create another Epic Romeo and Juliet project? Every year there seems to be an additional crazy parent that I, or others in my department, need to deal with that kills the joy of teaching. Is that something I want to keep dealing with year after year? Will being an administrator make me happier?

I have had a chance to work with amazing teachers and develop some forward thinking policy. I have ideas to move my district forward in technology and love presenting at conferences and sharing my ideas. This might be the world I'm best suited for right now, but I still need some time to think.

I would love any thoughts from my PLN you would like to share here on my blog or through email.

OneNerdyTeacher@Gmail.com

@TheNerdyTeacher

21 comments:

  1. I'm in a similar position. I've been talking with Jeremy Macdonald about this very issue (he's in a similar position as well). For me, the answer is clear. I belong in the classroom full-time. I miss the continuity of it. I miss being there in the moment.

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  2. I struggled with that same question 3 years ago, and I will say that there isn't a day that I don't miss the classroom and the direct effect I can have on students' learning. Yet, I could have opted to go back at any time, and I haven't because my work as a curriculum and technology specialist is so engaging, and because I hope that I am helping to make a broader impact for students by helping to push the conversation toward more powerful expectations for teaching and learning.

    You are struggling with this for all of the right reasons. I am skeptical when teachers opt into a leadership role because they are done with the classroom. It's much better to be running towards something than to be running away from something.

    As a member of my PLN, you've made an impact on the teachers I serve. I have no doubt that if you decide to leave the classroom, you will have the opportunity to make meaningful change from a new vantage point.

    In the end, you'll have the comfort that you can always return to the classroom to lead from there as well. I wish you the best as you think this through.

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  3. Nick,

    I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has approached me to move into admin. This is my thoughts on it...don't. You are a good teacher and that is where you will have the most direct impact on students. Feel free to read some of my thoughts on the issue here... http://stumpteacher.blogspot.com/2011/02/to-be-or-not-to-be.html

    Josh

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  4. Four and a half years ago I was also given a choice. I decided to take the plunge and leave the classroom. Unlike some other comments, it was the best move I ever took. I am a staff developer and have worked with numerous teachers and administrators.

    For me, working with teachers on the "techy common good" is so rewarding.

    If I suddenly get an urge to be with students, I model a new techology or a "best practices" lesson in the classroom.

    The day I am told that I am out of touch with my teachers is the day I go back to the classroom.

    Hope this helps.

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  5. My two cents from the other side of the state:

    The decision you're currently waffling between will most likely be a decision you will revisit for many years to come, regardless of which choice you make. I'm not going to try and persuade you to make one decision or the other, but rather ask you if you've taken the time to reflect on where your strengths are, and where you feel your talents might best be used and have a chance to grow.

    For me, I left the classroom because after 7 years my ability to create truly effective relationships with my students just wasn't where it needed to be for me to be as effective as I wanted to be. I've found that I've been able to make many more effective relationships working with a dedicated core of teachers in my district. It's been much more fulfilling for me.

    Do I still miss working with students? Heck yeah! Do I still miss doing special projects with students I've managed to connect with? You bet! For me though it was easier to make a decision based on where I knew my strengths were, and by leaving the classroom, opened up an opportunity for a teacher with much stronger social skills to connect with students, while I worked in a position that spoke to my strengths.

    One question to ask yourself then is, do you feel as though you have a good grasp on where your strengths lie, and have you had enough time to reflect, identify, and build upon those areas where you know you will be able to become most effective?

    Answering those questions helped me, and I dare to submit they might help you as well, and could help lead you in either direction.

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  6. It's obvious that you will be a passionate administrator should you decide to take the jump and that is why I say 'go for it'. I have seen too many people move into administration because they didn't want to stay in the classroom and they have never returned.
    I think that ALL administrators should still spend time in the classroom to share their expertise and knowledge with teachers. Too many stay in their office 'administrating' and are never seen by the students.

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  7. I'm in the same boat. After 11 years in the classroom, I am ready to explore new opportunities and learn new skills. However, I love being with my 5th graders and the thought of not having students next year is a bit painful.

    However, the classroom will always be available. Therefore, I'm kind of seeing the next step as an exploration, a chance to try something new -- a career sabbatical of sorts. If I jump and love it, great. If I jump and don't love it, great, back to the classroom. If I don't jump and always wonder if I should have, not great.

    Good luck as your wrestle with your opportunities, wants and desires. The uncertainty that comes from multiple options is certainly an exciting and fortunate place to be. I look forward to hearing what you decide.

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  8. Nick,

    I think all of us who care deeply about education face these choices. There are pros and cons to any decision. No matter what you pick, you will always be a teacher. You just have to decide what age group you want to teach. The teachers I work with are my students and I approach them the same way I did my middle school students because, in the end, we are all learners.

    That was the question I had to answer for myself. What age group/subject did I want to teach?

    Good luck and I know you'll make a well-informed choice. Glad to have you in my PLN.

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  9. If you ponder it a bit, you'll figure out where you can make the most difference. If all else fails, turn to Captain James T. Kirk for advice

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  10. Nick - As others have said - this is something that only you can decide. I would see if there is an opportunity to try the position for a year and have the ability to go back to your classroom if you decide that this is your preference.

    As an administrator, I think it would help a larger number of students if I could utilize someone with your skills to work with other teacher so that they could have support in integrating tech. resources into their curricular areas.

    Of course for this to happen, you would need a lot of flexibility in the job description. Too often I see great teachers pulled from the classroom and then locked down by a narrow vision of what their new role is. If you have the ability to articulate your own vision for this position so you know that you will be able to make a difference in your school, then I would say give it a go.

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  11. It boils down to the depth of the relationship you want with your students. As an admin you will have more influence over more students classroom experience. As a teacher, you will have more personal influence on your students. I enjoy the admin side, I get to come in and be a guest lecture for a project (every once in awhile) and for the most part, I just get to help the teachers become better at what they do. I'm the research and development arm of instruction. That satisfies my need for creativity. The main downside is that you are once removed from the students. Your successes will be deployed by someone else. The other teachers will experience the positive side of your work. You have to ask yourself if you can step back from the stage and still enjoy the show. Good luck.

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  12. I, too, left the classroom and struggled with the decision. I am happy in my current position, I do work with nationally teachers and get to connect with students. I have grown more professionally from having made the jump. Agree w/ PLarkin, feel out the position completely if you can't have a strong voice and vision frustration will ensue! Confident you will continue make a impact whether staying or going.

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  13. I had a similar opportunity 7 years ago and don't regret the decision to leave the classroom and work with teachers and technology.

    I had two thoughts in my mind when I was deciding whether to leave the classroom:
    1. Would this position be available when I'm ready to leave the class, whether that is in 1 year or 10?
    2. Can I return to the classroom if the "District Office" position wasn't for me?

    My answers were:
    1. Probably not. There are 5 school districts within a reasonable driving distance of my home (I wasn't moving to take the job, at least not yet). Inst. Tech. jobs were non-existent in 3 of the 5 districts, 1 district had one position already filled by someone my age, and 1 district had 5 positions. When that 5th district had an opening, I applied and got the position (stayed for 3.5 years). Since then, one of those 3 district w/o Inst. Tech jobs added one via a grant, and I moved to that district, and have been here for the last 2 years.
    2. I am a social studies teacher, and while the job market isn't as strong as it once was, and social studies jobs aren't growing on trees, I felt pretty confident that I could get another classroom job if I needed. When my current district wasn't sure if they would be able to continue my position a year ago, I was reassured by my Superintendent that he could always find a classroom position for me.

    Overall, it came down to this for me: As a classroom teacher, I can deeply affect a student for 60 minutes a day for a school year. In my current position as a Technology Coach for my district, I can affect 400 teachers, who can affect 5000 students. If I do my job well, the impact I can have on students in my district will be much greater in my current position as a Tech Coach, and that is my goal every day.

    Best of luck in your decision!

    Tim Cooper
    www.timothycooper.com

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  14. Be selfish, do what you want to do. Don't be swayed by where you think you will "do the most good". This isn't a decision that should be made that way because you will do the most good where you belong, where you want to be.

    If you want to be a tech facilitator full time, do it. If you want to be a classroom teacher full time, do it.

    If I were being selfish, I would say stay in the classroom. The students are more important (and less able to change what happens in the classroom) than the teachers. We need great teachers teaching kids. Of course, the other teachers need to step up and take care of their business.

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  15. Nick,

    I'm glad you posted this. I was given a similar decision to make and I also am torn. On one hand, working with students is why I am a teacher... to give them the education so few others around them get. On the other hand, by getting meaningful technology into teachers' and students' hands, I can impact many more students than the 22 students I work with now (though not as intensely as a classroom teacher can).

    For me, while I know many teachers take the admin route and never come back, I plan to keep my things in storage and reevaluate in a year or two, though who knows how long funding will even last for the tech coach position around here. I know the impact I can make in the classroom, but haven't experienced the impact I can make as a coach. I hope it's as powerful as I envision, but if not, I know I can go back to making an impact with 20-30 students a year in the classroom.

    Good luck in your decision making process. I'm going to talk to my principal today about my decision.

    -Robert

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  16. Hey Nick- What a choice! I, too, would tell you to go with your gut. I have my masters in administration, but I missed being with the kids in the classroom. I'm back now after a 4 year hiatus as an administrator, and I am loving every minute. There were positives to the administrative role, and I'm not saying I'll never go back to the office. But it's very different from the close connection we have with students in our classrooms. I wish you the best.

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  17. I made the move from the classroom 7 years ago and wish I hadn't. As everyone else has said, it comes down to personal choice obviously and in many ways to your district. My reservations or regrets for leaving are simple. I have realized that my passion is with students. While I thought that helping other teachers...help students....would quinch that thirst, it does not for me. I want to be the one helping them grow and finding their talent and no amount of PD or coaching transfers passion to one not openly seeking it already. I do well with my teachers and I think they enjoy and value our interactions, but every time I see someone speak to a child differently than I might, it hurts a little more thinking I could have helped that kid. For me its math, I can effect 30 kids a great deal or indirectly hope to effect about 1,500.

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  18. I, too, Nick have been pondering this question. While I don't have any opportunities lined up, I am torn between my love of teaching and my love of teaching teachers. I wonder if this is normal for our 'vintage.' We are at that part of our career where we've been doing what we do for a while and it's normal to begin to wonder.

    I also empathize with the stress of being both teacher and tech coach. Something always suffers as a result. I am now back in the classroom full time, and while my schedule is ridiculous, at least I know what to focus on and when.

    What advice I can offer from talking with many people who have gone to work 'downtown' is that you should never make the move if you are not willing to go back in the classroom at any point. Job stability outside of the classroom is not as strong, so at any time you could be back in the classroom.

    Good luck with whatever choice you make, you will be awesome no matter which you choose!

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  19. Nick! Not going to go on and on...BUT ( did you know that stands for behold the underlying truth?) as someone who spent 19 years as an admin with 14 of those years as a Primcipal, I wouldn't have done it any other way. It was truly my calling to step out of the clasroom and serve in a different capacity. It wasn't always easy, but I've been able to use my experiences to fuel the passion for the work I do now. Seek your true passion no matter what and don't look back. I leave you with this quote: "What would you attempt to if you knew you could not fail?"

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  20. Nick, I have read through these comments and I think perhaps that I can relate better than most. From what I read in the comments, most folks had a choice of either teacher or administrator. Your situation already has one foot on each side: teaching part-time and coordinating part-time.

    For 8 years, I juggled the roles of classroom math teacher (3 hours per day) and School To Career Coordinator (3 hours per day). I also was very involved as a building technology coordinator. I wore several hats, as you currently do. While serving in all those capacities, I felt that I was spread too thin, unable to give my all to any one position. I felt my students were being cheated. I wasn't giving to my students what I would give if I didn't have the other roles.

    When the position of Director of Information Technology arose, I jumped at it. I was passionate about technology and learning and this position was a good fit for me. It also meant that I would only be wearing one hat, although it is a big hat that encompasses much. I feel much better about being able to focus on a single program.

    Just as I would tell me students, seek your passion and go for it. If your passion happens to pay the bills, you have found your calling.

    Dave

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  21. As someone who has just shut the door permanently on an admin. position for good, I have to say that I am quite relieved in my decision to stay in the classroom. I truly enjoy the one-to-one direct contact with students. To me, the admin. role has become nothing more than "putting out fires" especially in a VP position. The Principal's role has become more managerial than instruction-focused - we hardly see him in the building as he is stuck in his office doing paperwork. Where is the passion in that? It sounds like that many people on this board have had the opportunity to "try out" an admin. position with recourse back to the classroom. Not so here in Ontario, Canada. Once you accept an admin. position, you leave the union and your seniority behind. In other words, you better like your new role as there is virtually no opportunity to return unless you want to go to the bottom of the list and hope there is a job for you. This was enough to keep my passion and pragmatism in the classroom. Had there been an opportunity to "kick the tires" for a couple of years, I would have gladly tried it out.

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