My career in education is not your typical story. I’m not like other teachers who spend their entire career in one district or area. This past school year I made a big change.
In my 19 years in education, I’ve worked in two states and one country where I didn’t speak the language. I’ve spent 11 years as an elementary teacher, 1 year as a Resource Specialist (SPED), 1 1/2 years as an Educational Technology Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA), 3 years as a non-credentialled Principal at a private school, and nearly 2 years as a credentialled Assistant Principal. I know all of these experiences have helped me be a better educator. However, I wasn’t prepared for the challenges that the last three years brought.
When I look back on my journey I think everything really changed when I applied to be an Educational Technology TOSA within my district. When I first learned about the position I instantly knew that it was a job I was meant for. I LOVED using technology with my students and helping other teachers in my school do so as well. The thought of being able to help others realize their technology potential was exhilarating.
Education Technology TOSA – Change #1
I applied for the opening mid-school year in November 2019. In February 2020 I made the transition from my self-contained classroom to the cubicle in the district office. The first four weeks of my new position were spent trying to quickly learn to IT help side of the job and introducing myself to all of the schools and staff I would be supporting. It was a lot in a short period of time, but it was still exciting. Little did I know, six weeks later my district would take a “two-week break” due to the start of COVID-19.
That two-week break turned into the rest of the school year. The year ended with all students and staff at home trying to navigate the use of technology in their everyday teaching. The Educational Technology TOSA team of 2 needed to quickly pivot. With the support of our other TOSA colleagues, we created professional development that supported this new style of teaching. Each day felt like we were sprinting in a marathon.
For the next year and a half, my job description changed from going into classrooms to do demo lessons for students and teachers to being IT support for individuals with virtual professional development opportunities scattered throughout the year. Don’t get me wrong, I love being helpful and showing someone how to interact with technology. However, it wasn’t what I originally thought it was supposed to be.
Administration – Change #2
During this time I also got my admin credential. Being a non-credential Principal at the private school I had previously worked for was a very positive experience and I wanted to have a back-up in case the right opportunity became available. In September 2021 the right opportunity presented itself.
After encouragement from colleagues and friends, I decided to apply for an Assistant Principal position within my district. In October 2021 I was hired and moved from my cubicle to an office at a school site with 950+ students and 65+ staff.
At this point, we are still in the middle of COVID. The students are back on campus, but they are still required to wear masks. Being an administrator during COVID was nothing like I had previously experienced. Every day was a new challenge and parents were much more unkind than I had previously experienced. Students had also lost some of the basic social skills they would have learned from their parents/guardians and became increasingly dysregulated.
Burnout and Change Needed
After about a year of doing everything I could to support students, families, and staff members my mental health hit rock bottom. Even though I was trying to prioritize rest, my spiritual health and physical health were also super low. I knew I had to make a change, but I was embarrassed to tell anyone. Thankfully my district provided an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that allowed for five free counseling sessions. These sessions helped me get back to a semi-stable state and I continued to meet with my counselor virtually through my insurance. She diagnosed me with burnout. While I had almost experienced it once before, it had never been anything like that.
Once my mental health was stable I decided that I needed to make some difficult decisions. I chose to leave my position as an Assistant Principal at the end of the school year and go back to a classroom setting. Once I made that decision it felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders. I knew it was the best decision for me and God gave me a sense of peace about the decision.
I’ve been back in the classroom for 2 months. It is very different! The classroom setting I left pre-COVID has changed drastically post-COVID. Some things for the better and others for the worse. If you’re someone who is considering a change in your career I encourage you to talk to someone. Don’t continue to struggle alone. Thankfully, one of the best things to come out of COVID is the increased opportunities to go digital. See if your workplace has an EAP that you can use to talk through challenges. You don’t need to wait for rock bottom to receive support.