Finding Ways to Persevere – Finding Joy and Remembering Why You Became a Teacher in the First Place

Posted
12/2/2019
Mary McLaughlin
Special Education Teacher
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At every turn over the past week or two, it seemed too many colleagues were contemplating leaving Teaching.

One example is my friend, Lisa. She is a 26-year veteran Special Education Teacher. She has been in talks with a company that writes Individual Education Plan software. Citing the need for her expertise and background, the company is willing to wait until her school contract runs out next Summer. She will make her final decision at the school year's end.

In my effort reignite my friends' passion in the field we all love, I shared with them examples of joy from the classroom. I shared with them my experiences with my Administration. I told them how much I valued their input and support. I told them about parents who previously stayed away from school but after receiving a phone call sharing good things about their children, they opted to engage more fully.

I tried to lift them up, encourage them. Remind them of why we entered this profession. We discussed how interesting it is to live in a time of such significant change. Technology, society, and so many other aspects of life are progressing at a break-neck pace. Who would want to miss out on the adventure and thrill before us?

It was time to discuss finding professional development to suit their situations and restore their weary souls.

Finding Inspiration Through Professional Development Schools

We are losing great Educators every single day. Enrollments in Teacher prep programs in the United States are down by 23% between 2007 and 2016.

But there is great news! Universities are identifying causal factors for this decline and have begun to offer more relevant coursework. Pre-service Teachers will be better equipped for the job than ever before.

Teacher prep programs are placing a renewed focus on equipping pre-service Teachers with the specific knowledge and skillsets needed to work in troubled communities plagued by the opioid crisis, violence, poverty and all the barriers to learning that come with it.

Districts are becoming well aware that their Administrators and Teachers are in need of more tangible experiences for professional development. With budgets being cut, some forward-thinking school agencies have brought forward a new solution with the advent of professional development schools.

At professional development schools, pre-service Teachers gain the practical experiences required to enter their own classrooms with confidence, and current Teachers are given the ability to model or observe relevant classroom practices in a positive setting.

Experts are brought in to teach and share on all aspects of pedagogy. In most cases, these schools are models for successful Education practices and prove what forward thinking practices can mean for schools in an underserved or struggling community.

As a host site for frequent family night gatherings, professional development sites have even come to serve as community centers. Creating a sense of connection between students, families, and communities works to establish stronger connections for everyone. For Educators who are visiting such centers, a recalibration of purpose and motivation can occur.

Other Opportunities to Develop Skills and Talents Within Your School Community

Budget cuts have derailed the professional development plans of many Educators, and in some districts attending out-of-town conferences on the school's dime isn't something teachers can count on anymore. The good news is that today's professional development comes readily available online for those who don't happen to have a professional development school campus in their area. Colleges and Universities often offer development opportunities, both online and on-site, for state-approved credit as well. Check with your State's Department of Education for the numerous opportunities available to you.

Other opportunities to find inspiration and develop your skills and talents can fall outside the scope of formal professional development that would count towards your required hours and can involve…

  • Some of the best professional development can come from peer-to-peer conversations.
  • School leadership and classroom Teachers need to support one another in a reciprocal style.A kind gesture, word or deed, sharing new professional development opportunities, and approaching challenges from a team perspective can go a long way.
  • Stakeholders needs to be well-versed in how Special Education is implemented and integrated into classrooms. Remember, our children with special needs want to be a part of the school's overall vision too. As a school team, work together to learn the law. This is an excellent development opportunity for all stakeholders.
  • Be a presence at your school board meetings and Parent-Teacher organization meetings. When stakeholders work together, strong stanchions will lead to great schools. Partnerships are salient to any successful school.
  • Veteran Teachers need to be mined for their professional histories. There is value in knowing where we come from if we're going to understand where we're going. While the Gen X'ers and remaining Baby Boomers may make you want to roll your eyes or they bother you with computer questions, there is wisdom in their years.
  • Embrace the experiences of Gen Y, the millennial generation. They bring a lot to the table. New approaches to Teaching, different ways of considering issues within the school (and life) setting, and ability to seamlessly integrate technology into lessons make for meaningful connections to students as well as faculty, staff, parents, and community-based stakeholders.
  • Create your own inspired development opportunities with and for your school team that specifically address the needs of your school.

Renewing Your Purpose and Reviving Your Teaching Passion

Teaching is hard work, no question about it. While burn-out can periodically affect us, sometimes it's important to act in a way that may seem counterintuitive at first. Instead of running away, giving up, or finding a new job outside of Education, run toward the career you know, deep in your soul, is the one you were born to do. Be inspired!

Mary McLaughlin

Mary has always loved learning, but was a struggling learner who couldn’t read until one day, the right teacher came along with the right methodology, and everything clicked for Mary. Understanding the struggles of children who just “don’t get it,” Mary has spent her career supporting children with learning difficulties and finding ways to excite them about education. Over her career, Mary has taught Second Grade, Third Grade, and served as a Middle School Administrator in Michigan, most often in the urban setting. In 2015, Mary relocated to Arkansas in search of new opportunities and is excited at all that has been placed before her. She currently teaches Special Education in a self-contained setting for children in grades 2-4.
Mary McLaughlin

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