The Non-Reasons I Am Leaving Education

I’m not disillusioned by the institution. I actually see public education way more clearly than when I started. Everyone knows that schools are important, but no one wants to talk about why they exist. It’s a simple problem to solve, but the political will and public attention span may not be strong enough to engage in the kind of principle-level conversation that’s required to forge a unifying purpose for public education on a local or national level. So, individual teachers and the occasional stand-out school will continue to expend heroic effort for immediate impact, but sustainable change will continue to elude the pundits and politicians.

I’m not leaving for more money. Actually, I’ll make about the same amount of money as we made with all of our jobs combined. It will be salaried, however, and it will increase annually if I can make my goals and add value, but that’s all uncertain, much like my teacher salary from year to year.

Teaching wasn’t too overwhelming or difficult for me. I had some rough years, but I figure that’s part of any job. Once I found my rhythm as a teacher, my students were able to run most of the classroom procedures. It turns out, this is just good management.

There was no fall out with my district or other teachers. The administrators, teacher’s union and indivdual teachers in my district seemed to get along fairly well on a day-to-day, year-to-year basis, especially considering recent budget troubles. Everyone demonstrated a real commitment to students. Unfortunately, that commitment doesn’t address the question of why schools or even a school district exist. That’s a question for a different post altogether.

The Reasons I Am Leaving Education

I’m joining a company that I believe in. I’ve been working with my “new” employer for the last three years, moonlighting in the backroom on weekends while teaching weekdays. The team members at Target have treated me with respect and honor. On top of that, I’ve been impressed by Target’s focus on a clear mission and vision that drives everything it’s employees do.

I get more days off. For the last three years, I’ve been working seven days a week. My wife has worked two or three jobs at a time. We’ve made a living, but we haven’t had much of a life. Teaching didn’t lead us to this lifestyle, but to move out of this “always on” way of life, we knew we needed something more than teaching was able to deliver.

I get to focus on one job. I believe I’ve performed well in my core responsibilities as a classroom teacher, but who knows how much better I might have been if I could have focused completely on my classroom and leadership responsibilities. My new position will certainly demand my time and energy, but it will be one main demand, rather than three or four different employers demanding my time, attention, and creativity.

I have more options for career advancement. I’ve been really fortunate to serve in some interesting and important leadership positions in my district. At the end of the day, though, I was a classroom teacher filling some temporary committee and leadership positions that added nominal compensation to my base teacher pay. My new employer includes multiple departments and locations around the country, and advancement is encouraged. They even reimburse post-baccalaureate tuition costs. I would have had to take out student loans to get a master’s degree as a teacher.

I Am Leaving Education

After six years in two districts, my wife and I have decided it’s time to make a change. We found ourselves in the fortunate position of choosing between two excellent employers, and we chose to go with the private company.

I feel completely blessed to have worked with such wonderful students, families, teachers, adminstrators, and leaders. I also feel completely blessed to have corresponded with some amazing educators online through blogs, tweets, etc.

If you’re interested, check out the reasons and non-reasons for my move. After that, I won’t do a whole lot more blogging around here. I’ll post mainly to my Posterous blog.

Concerning the Failed Override in Marana

A recent budget override proposal was voted down in the district where I teach. I wonder, what message should my district leaders discern from this decision? I’ve boiled it down to two possible options:

  1. Voters aren’t happy with our work.
  2. Voters don’t know that they should be happy with our work.

Either way, the employees of our district have work to do. If voters aren’t happy, then we need to make changes to satisfy our community, while simultaneously satisfying state and federal requirements. If we honestly feel that we’re doing good work, then we need to revolutionize public relations in our district so that voters know how fortunate they are.

As a first step, I’d argue that we need a compelling purpose for public education in our district. When we ask for more money through increased property taxes, we need a shorthand for communicating what we’re going to do with that money. “Support our students.” is apparently not a compelling argument for raising property taxes. “Invest in Marana’s future workforce” or “Train future Marana voters” might drive toward a more specific purpose for our work and a tax increase.

Purpose-Driven Professional Development

A couple posts back, I described a DIY teacher conference we’re planning for our school. Here’s why I’m interested in this home-grown approach to PD:

Teachers love to ask the question “why.” They don’t love dictated answers. Even if they don’t ask for them by name, teachers want agency and autonomy in their professional development. Teachers want to ask “why are we doing this?” and they want to discuss the reasoning, and provide feedback. Most of all, teachers want a hand in deciding the “why” for their own PD.

Did We Really Need Another PLC Book? Yes. [Book Review]

Solution Tree lists no fewer than 16 books on transforming schools into collaborative communities. Building a Professional Learning Community at Work stands out as the most teacher-friendly explanation of PLCs that I’ve read.
It’s written by teachers with teachers in mind. This is not a standard PLC theory and research dump. Parry Graham and William Ferriter follow a fictional principal and his core team of teacher-leaders as they work to reform their building as a professional learning community. The scenes in their PLC story serve as the launch point for each chapter. Each scene is followed by clear, concise analysis, an explanation of the underlying research, and practical recommendations for school leaders moving forward.
If the scenes feel staged at times, it’s an easy flaw to forgive. Each line of dialog third-party omniscient thought description serves to illustrate a critical element of working in collaboration with others. While the story is fictional, it’s clear that the authors have lived through many of these meetings and conversations.
Graham and Ferriter don’t shy away from the messy parts of teamwork, collaboration, and leadership. Sometimes teachers disagree. Sometimes they let each other down. Sometimes teachers hurt each other. More than once, I found myself cringing at the too-honest comments of teachers trying to figure out how to make collaboration work. If you’ve ever worked collaboratively with other teachers, you know that the results can be tremendous, but the process can get barbed and personal at times. In Building a PLC at Work, Graham and Ferriter point out common trouble spots in collaboration and share insights for overcoming the instances of friction in a collaborative team.
This book includes no shortage of research. These guys read a lot of really good books, and they apply fundamental principles from these books to education. If you’ve read and enjoyed books like Good to Great, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Here Comes Everybody, and Professional Learning Communities at Work, then Graham’s and Ferriter’s ideas will really resonate with you.
Reproducibles in every chapter help you to get started now. No need to wait for committees to form and surveys to be turned in. Building a PLC at Work includes sample meeting agendas and worksheets for every step of the process, from initiating informal conversations to reflecting on data conversations.
If you’ve been put off by the one-dimensional idealism of many PLC seminars or district workshops, Building a Professional Learning Community at Work will be a breath of fresh air. Graham and Ferriter unpack the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of reshaping a school as a professional learning community, and they cast a real-world vision for how schools can leverage collaboration to realize high achievement for every student.

Solution Tree lists no fewer than 16 books on transforming schools into collaborative communities. Building a Professional Learning Community at Work stands out as the most teacher-friendly explanation of PLCs that I’ve read.

It’s written by teachers with teachers in mind. This is not a standard PLC theory and research dump. Parry Graham and William Ferriter follow a fictional principal and his core team of teacher-leaders as they work to reform their building as a professional learning community. The scenes in their PLC story serve as the launch point for each chapter. Each scene is followed by clear, concise analysis, an explanation of the underlying research, and practical recommendations for school leaders moving forward.

If the scenes feel staged at times, it’s an easy flaw to forgive. Each line of dialog serves to illustrate a critical element of working in collaboration with others. While the story is fictional, it’s clear that the authors have lived through many of the meetings and conversations portrayed in the book.

Graham and Ferriter don’t shy away from the messy parts of teamwork, collaboration, and leadership. Sometimes teachers disagree. Sometimes they let each other down. Sometimes teachers hurt each other. More than once, I found myself cringing at the too-honest comments of teachers trying to figure out how to make collaboration work. If you’ve ever worked collaboratively with other teachers, you know that the results can be tremendous, but the process can get barbed and personal at times. In Building a PLC at Work, Graham and Ferriter point out common trouble spots in collaboration and share insights for overcoming the instances of friction in a collaborative team.

This book includes no shortage of research. These guys read a lot of really good books, and they apply fundamental principles from these books to education. If you’ve read and enjoyed books like Good to Great, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Here Comes Everybody, and Professional Learning Communities at Work, then Graham’s and Ferriter’s ideas will really resonate with you.

Reproducibles in every chapter help you to get started now. No need to wait for committees to form and surveys to be turned in. Building a PLC at Work includes sample meeting agendas and worksheets for every step of the process, from initiating informal conversations to reflecting on data conversations.

If you’ve been put off by the one-dimensional idealism of many PLC seminars or district workshops, Building a Professional Learning Community at Work will be a breath of fresh air. Graham and Ferriter unpack the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of reshaping a school as a professional learning community, and they cast a real-world vision for how schools can leverage collaboration to realize high achievement for every student.