“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”
As I reflect on my teaching in a cyber school setting, I realized my view of education, my view of change and beginning new adventures has truly transformed. I teach at a public, charter cyber school. I’m sure some of you will stop reading this post, angry that they even exist. While others may continue on reading, because you’re curious about cyber school and what it’s all about. Although I was extremely nervous to leave my public school position and unsure about it all. I’m thrilled this door opened for me.
This rebirth came at a time when I was contemplating my career in education. I love teaching. I love learning. And I love children. These three things I know for sure. This is me. I was the kid that always wanted to play school. You know, the one that enjoyed research papers, studying and hanging out at the library. I like to joke and say that my strict Greek parents wouldn’t allow anything less than a A+, in all subjects, but in all honesty, I love challenging myself. Taking risks and trying new things are all a part of me, of who I am.
The education world has changed much since I first entered the profession in 1998. I remember a time where our thematic, cross-curricular units were filled with rich literature and engaging activities. Students’ artistic creations covered every inch of our building. A time where a teacher’s creativity soared and excitement matched that of their students. A time when students excitedly ran through hallways eager to learn. I look back on those early years fondly, but with a sense of sadness too. I worked in a traditional public school for 18 years. I saw first hand and experienced the horrors of shifting from child centered pedagogy to test driven, score focused nonsense.
“We’re not teaching to the test” we would say. But we all knew that from 2:00-3:00 pm each teacher was reviewing testing strategies and preparing students for what lay ahead. There were so many times that I would ditch those strategies and have my students complete science experiments. My students were so happy, so engaged, kids love science. They didn’t notice that I was on look out alert, sneaking peeks into the hallway to ensure other colleagues, and administrators weren’t near by ready to question what we were doing. I know, many of you are probably thinking, “Why would an administrator question learning?” or “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness, than…”. Maybe you’re thinking “It’s all in your head”…I’ve heard that a lot, especially from former educators no longer in the classroom. Those who feel they know the state of education, but truly have no idea of the reality teachers in the classroom today face. Beyond frustrated, I would come home each day and cry. This new reality was too much to deal with. What am I going to do? I thought. Every school district is doing the same thing. Where am I going to go? For six years, I prayed. Hoping the good Lord would answer my prayers and help me move forward.
Each May/June I would send out resumes and credentials. Many interviews and “thanks but no thanks” letters later, I received an email from a cyber school. Funny thing is, I don’t remember applying for a cyber position. The email said, “Send in a video of yourself teaching a concept. Get it to me any way you can”. So, I shrugged my shoulders, pressed record on my iPad and sent the Dropbox link. A few days later I had secured a second interview. A few weeks later, an offering.
I feel blessed to have been given so many wonderful opportunities this year. Now, there are no sneaky science lessons. I am able to create units and lessons that are meaningful and relevant to my students. My students help me and motivate me to explore new opportunities of learning I never thought I would, exploring and creating a Minecraft Unit, tech infused Video/Movie Unit, STEAM and Genius Hour. It feels wonderful to have my administrators support. I feel fortunate to have had this opportunity to get back to “my roots”, get back to what I love to do. My creativity, my energy, my passion is back. Now, I work with educators that value my input. I share interesting educational articles and strategies with my colleagues without the response of “Why bother? Nothing is going to come of it!”. My colleagues are talented teachers, who find creative ways to reach their students without batting an eye. Their passion is inspiring. I’m able to attend meaningful PD and conferences without placing my name on a waiting list, being told that I already went to one, or there’s no funding for any more PD. It was a scary, gut wrenching step to take, but I am ever so happy that I did.
How often do we miss the window of opportunity in a new situation just because we are sad or frustrated about that other door, that just closed? To me this is another powerful reason to remind myself to stay in the present. Don’t get too far ahead of ourselves and don’t get stuck and hung up on the past and missed opportunities. When you are living in the present– which is a way to live on the positive and open part of the emotional scale too – and not stuck in the past I have found that it is a lot easier to find the hidden opportunities in any situation. So, whenever you see a light dimming or a door closing, take your eyes off it for a moment. And instead of letting your awareness linger on what is in the past, use your time and focus to find the new opportunity that lets you continue the unpredictable adventure that is life.