Educators are often overwhelmed. So much so, that many new to the profession leave within their first five years. Unfortunately the frustrations don't permit all who enter our field to tap into the fulfillment, joy, and opportunities our career has to offer. In fourteen years as a NYCDOE teacher I have had a very different experience. Yes, the first few years were challenging. Deciding how to best support my students while managing time, taking on as many on and off site learning opportunities as possible, and completing a master’s degree while managing my health as a Type 1 Diabetic was trying. Luckily, my administrators, mentors, colleagues, and family supported the long hours by constantly reminding me to find balance and collaborate.
I sincerely urge all to collaborate whenever possible. Sometimes, while new or veteran instructors are planning, teaching, grading, and reviewing data, it's common to feel alone. The truth is that, in education, we are never alone. No matter what subject matter or grade level you support, there is always a platform to share, a blog to peruse, or a coworker to chat with for inspiration, guidance, and assurance. Utilizing Twitter, education conferences, the experience of peers, students, and schools within or outside of our own districts can all allow our craft to widen its reach, its impact, its strengths, and its ideals. Ed chats, learning communities, impact teams, and academic organizations are just some of the many resources novice and seasoned educators should be actively contributing to. I am truly grateful to be supported by an administration that encourages its staff to seek out and participate in such endeavors. Without the chance to try, and at times to fail, growth is impossible. The best leaders are those that continue to learn themselves. Only through trial and error, varied attempts, diverse entry points, and a desire to improve continually can our students and our communities strive to do the same. Never fear asking. If the best students are the most inquisitive, doesn't it make sense for that to apply to ourselves as well? By asking, persistently and intently, my experience has been one worth emulating. Taking students on international excursions, providing professional development for peers at our district office, encouraging students to participate in state and national competitions, providing tech courses for parents, attending conferences like the ACTFL (which I highly recommend for all world language educators), SXSWEdu and EDxEDNYC, to mention a few, are just some examples of the things that can be accomplished in just a year's time, simply by asking. The great thing about these experiences is that they tend to refresh, reset, and motivate improved approaches that allow for growth and truly meaningful teamwork.
Circling back to balance, it's important to note that with all of the aforementioned opportunities, it can seem as though there isn't enough time to soak it all in. If there's a conference every day, a new chat every second, and a new focus at every meeting, how can any educator survive? The key is to take time to unplug. If your entire school community shares this vision, it's not on you alone to learn and turnkey. At the end of the day, semester, or school year, we are only able to positively impact those we instruct, work for, and collaborate with through our energized personalities. Being your best you: unstressed, passionate, and caring, makes finding teachable moments easier and best presented to our students. Taking the time to have compassionate conversations (about things other than education), to exercise, to partake in the hobbies we are fond of, to enjoy dinner, to celebrate our communities, to experience new surroundings, and to be with loved ones are the things that keep us balanced and allow us to bring our best selves to one of the most rewarding professions. We serve as our students' role models and they often ask about our own life experiences, educational plans, families, and dreams. Isn't it within our best interest to model the importance of balance? After all, in my experience it's the educators who have taken the time to live that have also had the liveliest of classes.
Francesca McAuliffe is a 14th year, trilingual NYCDOE world language educator at New Dorp High School. She is also the PSAL boys varsity soccer coach at her alma mater Susan Wagner. Francesca received her master's degree in administration and supervision from Pace University and is currently in the Staten Island Leadership Pipeline. She has presented at the annual iLearn NYC Symposium and is a certified IO Power User, d2L, and Apple Educator. Francesca enjoys her career and world travel. Follow Francesca on Twitter @Franciii500