At first glance, this is probably the most obvious difference. My days are no longer ruled by bell schedules and passing periods, and I don't have to plan my bathroom trips around plan time! While the flexibility is nice, sometimes it can be daunting. I have a lot of projects to work on, and it's up to me to prioritize, decide how much time to devote to each task, and structure my time well. The summer is a particularly slow time, and I really appreciated the days where I had meetings to break up the big chunks of work time. Sitting in an office all day, working independently, is a shock to the system after teaching! Of course, now that the school year is starting up, I am having the opposite problem - lots of meetings and professional development to lead, and very little work time! I know it will continue to ebb and flow as the school year gets underway.
Classroom teaching is such an independent job. Sure, I had my music team, and my district orchestra team, but we would come together and plan and then go execute, with our own kids, in our own classrooms. It was pretty clear what each of our roles was, and there wasn't really the opportunity to divide and conquer. For the first time, I am working closely with a team, and I love it! The support, the camaraderie, and the thoughtfulness about our work are all top notch. I also appreciate that my team is comprised of people who are not afraid to push my thinking or probe deeper. For the first time, I feel like I can honestly look at my strengths and weaknesses and see how they fit together into the whole. It takes pressure off to not have to be strong in everything, which is sometimes how I felt as a teacher!
This is another pretty obvious one, but a big difference is in the scope of the work I am doing. While I was often involved in school-wide or district-wide initiatives when I was teaching, the majority of my focus went toward the kids in my class (which is absolutely how it should be). Now, I am working on projects that are district-wide or even wider in scope! This point definitely has pros and cons - I love seeing the bigger picture and setting up sustainable systems, but I do miss those little sweet moments that only come through seeing kids day in and day out. Overall, though, it is exciting to work with a wide variety of people who see things not just as they currently are, but as they could be in the future.
My last observation is difficult for me to write. In my new position, there are great systems of support. I have both the resources I need and the interpersonal support to navigate challenging situations - and it's because there are systems set in place to provide this framework. This is so different than how I felt as a teacher, where I felt like I had to fight for everything. And that makes me so sad! It shouldn't be this way, but I know my story is not unique. Often, whether teachers feel supported or not depends greatly on the specific person or people who are in leadership at the time. We need great leaders, to be sure, but nobody lasts forever - how can we set up good systems to act as that safety net, regardless of what particular person is in that role? This is my challenge as I step into a role that is supporting educators in the district - finding ways that I can help create sustainable systems of support. Of course we want amazing leaders, and of course I want to help people the best I can in this role, but if the entire system is dependent on me (or the leader, or whomever else is in a specific role), we really have done ourselves a disservice. True systemic change extends beyond one person. I'm grateful for the systems that have been set in place that I am benefiting from now, and I want to leave the same legacy for others.