Remain A Changemaker in Education

by | Mar 25, 2019

Teachers are changemakers

The majority of teachers enter the profession because they want to make a difference. This desire to do good for others, to BE the good for others, positions them as “changemakers”.

Changemaker (n) – One who desires to change the world and then makes it happen.

 However, the traditional organization of the education system doesn’t reward this noble trait in teachers. In fact, it has proven to have the potential to squash it.

The path to teaching

For several years I taught student teacher seminar, the final class you take while you are student teaching. For 8 semesters I helped classrooms full of pre-service teachers navigate the often abrupt transition from idealist education major to practicing teacher. My office hours were filled with identity crises and breakdowns, students questioning their intentions and their path.

This is because the reality of teaching is often much different than projected. 

I worked with student teachers to persevere, to be reflective and find the joy within the struggle. And, just like I had, and my teachers before me had, they graduated and entered classrooms of their own. They entered those classrooms with a college degree that represented years filled with study sessions, sleepless nights, practicums and training. They walked the halls backed with knowledge on child development and psychology, best practice, and current research.

In other words, they came prepared.

What happens next

After a period of acclimation wherein teachers develop their style and begin to feel comfortable with their new identity as a teacher, reality sets in. 

During this time teachers continue to pursue their own professional development through Masters programs, further teaching certificates and licensures, or continuing education courses. They also are involved in a variety of professional development initiatives within their school. All this while continuing to place their students as a top priority.

Teachers continue to not only stay on top of the current landscape of education but grow as educators. Summer programs, evening classes, online courses, and more – teachers fill their outside of school time with more school.

However, at a certain point, one can’t help but look around and realize that there is very little external reward for continuing to push oneself this much. 

The disconnect

It is at this point in a teaching career where a crisis of conscious can occur.

You see, educators by nature value learning, growth, and education in its own rite. They understand that bettering oneself doesn’t NEED to have external praise or reward, but they also recognize that hard work and excellence should be valued within a system. They see a lack of recognition of their own content expertise and hard work. It is here where teachers begin to question their own place.

Hence, the disconnect.

Where to go from here

For years, unless a teacher desired to become an administrator there was no opportunity for vertical growth. This system organization, through lack of opportunity, spoke volumes to teachers and their continued pursuits.

This infrastructure is one of the many causes that lead to occupational stress and burnout. Educators who entered the field to make a difference, and who saw themselves as changemakers, felt overtime that their knowledge and skills could only get them so far and that there was little to no external recognition or compensation for bettering themselves professionally.

How to remain a changemaker

Teachers ARE changemakers and what we do in the classroom everyday often goes above and beyond. We don’t need to add more to our plate, but so many of us look for the recognition, respect, and upward mobility that isn’t available from our view in the classroom.

Thankfully there are a number of ways now in which teachers can showcase their skills and knowledge both within and outside their schools.

Teacher Leadership

Teacher leadership offers another rung to climb, but most often this advancement in responsibility does not come with an equal advancement in salary (if at all). Still, this position allows teachers to remain in the classroom while also flexing their content knowledge and expertise to help other educators.

Blogging

I started this blog not for fame or profit, but to simply share my story – my knowledge and research with other educators seeking to find ways to remain resilient in the face of occupational stress and burnout within the field of education. Blogging has given me the opportunity to give a voice to the countless conversations and meetings I have had with educators who feel alone within the profession. If you are someone who enjoys writing, blogging may be your chance to share your story.

Write a book

Writing is a book is a harrowing process. If you are someone so inclined, writing a book about your specific experiences or content knowledge could be exactly what you need. Writing my books, Joy in Teaching: A Research-Based Framework of Action for Educators and its companion workbook, gave me an opportunity to sit down with all my ideas and research and organize them into a coherent resource. Plus, seeing teachers and schools use your own words for their professional development is a rewarding enterprise.

Teach College

I have taught college-level courses for about a decade. I love having informed discussions about best practice and methodologies, innovation and reform with education. There is a sense of pride when educators use the tools and techniques that you taught them in their classroom – it’s a new level of making change. It can be a lot to have two teaching positions, and self-preservation is important, but shifting to a collegiate learning environment can be an uplifting form of sharing your knowledge, experience, and skills.

Sell curriculum

Even simply putting your wares out there on online sites like Teachers Pay Teachers and Educents can give an educator a boost and a bit of a profit. If successful, a teacher can see others giving value and use to the curricular resources they have spent so much time and effort creating.

Work from within

There are plenty of opportunities to make a difference for the field of education from within the role of classroom teacher. Committees, unions, and professional networks and collaborative groups all offer roles from which you can offer your knowledge and skills to better the system from within.

Continue as a changemaker

Whatever outlet or role you take on – even if you remain solely in your classroom, it is important to continue to see yourself as a changemaker. It can be hard to keep this perspective when it isn’t always externally rewarded. At times it’s hard to find the internal reward for this, but connecting with your purpose and using resilience tools and techniques will allow you continue to see the change you can and do make as an educator.

If you are looking for more resilience-building techniques check out:

50 Resilience Strategies to Curb Teachers’ Stress

8 Ways to Spread Teacher Resilience Like Wildfire

The Joy in Teaching Books

The Joy in Teaching Courses

The Resilient Teacher's Timesaving Guidebook

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