There will be times in your career when you will come to a crossroads and need to decide, “Is this worth it? Will this make a difference?” Sometimes you will feel like you are taking a chance, and jumping into the unknown. Other times, you will be a visionary and will be convinced that things will work out, no matter what. In both of these instances, I say, be the teacher who decided to go for it. Either way you will learn a lesson, and come out a better person. There were several instances in my career when I decided to go for it, and was changed forever. Some situations were harder than others, but ALL were worth the effort.
My first experience trying to “Go for it,” while teaching was very early on. Think: student teaching, overwhelmed, thrown into the fire, I’ve dreamed of teaching my whole life, but not actually done it, early. I was sitting in my college classroom filling out a form detailing the age I would like to student teach in, and why. Well, obviously, I chose K-2, because I was getting my Kindergarten endorsement, so it would make sense. Also, I knew I was meant to teach younger grades. What does that even mean? I didn’t know anything. I hadn’t really experienced teaching yet.
Turns out, I got a position to student teach in second grade. Wahoo! I planned for weeks, and detailed every lesson down to the minute. I was organized and ready to teach. What I was not ready for were the students. I know, that sounds absurd, I am a teacher! What I mean is this: I had planned out what teaching should look like, without actually experiencing it. I had many jobs and experiences with young children, however, holding their attention for hours on end each day, while also planning and teaching a curriculum was something I had never done. I was overwhelmed. After a couple months I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing. To top it all off, connecting to second graders was not coming naturally to me. I was scared. It was the first week in February and I was approached by my professor to switch to a fifth grade classroom. I decided to go for it.
I instantly connected with the older elementary students. This. Was. Me. Planning their lessons was interesting and enjoyable. I had conversations with students that were meaningful, and was able to inspire and teach, all at the same time. I don’t know if it was a new start, a new grade, or a new outlook, but changing grades really helped me to be a better teacher. Deciding to go for it, and try something new made me the teacher I am today. Spoiler alert: I never got my Kindergarten endorsement. Kudos to all you Kindergarten teachers out there! I envy your patience, motivation, and creativity. I spent the next 5 years of my professional career teaching 6th grade in an elementary classroom, and I loved every second (well, almost every second) of it. I am so grateful for this experience. It is a time in my life that I am proud to say I took the brave step into the unknown, and embraced the joy I didn’t know was waiting for me.
Another time I decided to go for it was not quite as dramatic, but still important. It was my first year teaching, and from day one all I had heard from my students was, “When will the castle fair be?” What the heck was a castle fair? I tried putting it off and saying things like, “I haven’t decided,” or “Sometime after Christmas,” or when Christmas was over, “I’ll talk to the other teachers, but before Spring Break for sure.” Keep in mind my entire 6th grade team was new to the school. For two of us it was our first year, and my other coworker had just started part way through the year, the previous year. As I got to talking to the principal and other more veteran teachers at the school, it turned out this was a 6th grade tradition. Each year when they learned about the Medieval time period, they made castles and had a huge production for the whole school to come and see, to finish their unit. As a new teacher, this was a lot to take on. My other two coworkers were not as enthusiastic about it, but for me, my students had been looking forward to it, and I didn’t want to let them down. You guessed it, I decided to go for it.
My class was the only class that participated in the castle fair that year. It wasn’t perfect, and there are things I wish I had changed. However, my students were so proud of their projects, and we showed them off to the entire school, just like they had witnessed each year, until it was finally their turn.
Eventually, the following year my coworkers came around, and all classes participated in the castle fair. I became in charge of it. The castle fair was my project, and I looked forward to it each year. It was my favorite activity to oversee.
The point is, we can all go for it. We can do it in big and small ways. Each day we are presented with opportunities that can change our career. We need to decide if that will be the moment we chase our dreams, and go for it, or walk away always wondering about our decision.
I say, go for it!
You’ve got this teachers. I believe in you.