I’m heading back to the class in September and have recently been reviewing my career in my head. The expression of “you don’t know something until you know” seems oddly vague and strange, but applicable. Has my career been stagnant? Am I too late to make changes?
For years and years in my career, I thought I was doing just fine. In fact, in my earliest years, I felt like I was definitely a superstar. I don’t know if this was because I have an inflated ego, or compared to some people I was surrounded with, I may actually have been outperforming them. I took on courses, teams, new ideas, experimental trials, I was all in.
This attitude may have been a real detriment to me actually growing as a professional. Thinking I didn’t need help and was achieving all the classroom goals may have made me too complacent and lack the drive to actually move forward. Since I figured I was at the top of my game, I never looked around to see what “other games” were going on.
I had always just thought I’d retire out of my classroom. I felt connected to my subject matter and my students. I kept up enough with current trends and was reasonably well liked by colleagues. I wonder if someone had offered me options, would I have listened?
Here is my main dilemma : was I deaf to help or just not actually excelling the way I thought to be offered any guidance? Would I have scoffed at someone offering a different pathway, or was I really not “that material”?
After recent struggles in education- both personally and provincially – I’ve been rethinking my process. After 15 years as a classroom teacher, I wondered if there was more out there for me to try? (This comes from a combination of both personally wanting a change but also facing downsizing, surplus, redundant issues that may leave you without the same job).
I started (finally) reading the job postings in my board. There were jobs I didn’t know existed! Incredibly naievely, I just started applying for jobs I felt I would like to try and felt reasonably qualified to try. The best word I can say to myself is “hah!” The real process for change is so much more than trying and applying.
This is the point I could have used an advisor or mentor. “Hey Eva, I’ve noticed you’ve applied for some recent postings, does this indicate you are looking to -improve-change-upgrade-search-challenge yourself-further educate- your current role/situation?
I was perhaps showing some initiative to move my career forward, but hadn’t quite formulated the correct plan. Now my fears were facing me head on – was it too late to make the necessary moves? Early in my career, I didn’t take any steps for “advancement” because I didn’t know about other jobs, nor did I even realize I might one day like a job outside of the classroom. (I liken this to our high school protocol of having students fill out course selection sheets – where do you want to be in grade 12 – BUT unfortunately I am that kid who just didnt know yet)
So now, “late-ish” in my career, I was seeking mentoring from other educators. Not the type of mentoring about teaching my subject, or dealing with behaviour, or filling out report cards, but the type that includes how to take steps to advance my career, people to seek out, committees to look into, ideas to pursue. These mentors can be younger than me, in a different role from teacher, people outside of education even who’ve discovered successful pathways to reinvigorate their careers. The trick was (and is) to fill the potholes and find both attainable goals that can help me make the changes I need, even after years of lack of preparation.
I recently have made some changes, but I do wonder if it’s too little too late. It also pushes me out of my comfort zone and without knowing if these are in fact the right decisions, it’s hard to know whether to continue down the road. Sometimes it’s hard to both “keep your head up” and “keep your nose down” at the same time.
There are no certainties in life and I don’t want to get stuck in the mindset that I’m only doing this to further my career. I want to make solid choices, smart decisions, ones that benefit me and those with whom I work. For now, I will keep trying to contribute to the team with the best possible me I can offer.