Samantha Richardson: This Year Almost Drove Me Out of Teaching. The Right Leader Made Me Stay.
Samantha Richardson writes at Ed Week with a reminder that, especially in times like these, the right leadership in schools makes a huge difference.
I have spent the past seven years as a classroom teacher, working in a field I knew was never going to be easy. Early mornings, late nights, and the constant heartache, anger, and frustration at things I could never possibly fix. I chose to continue learning and growing in educational leadership in the hopes that, one day, at least one building of teachers wouldn’t feel the way that I was feeling.
All I see across the country are teachers who stay even when they wish they could leave because they have too much time invested. Teachers who stay because they aren’t yet aware of the unrealistic expectations and dismissiveness they will face. Teachers who leave when their strong, informed, and experienced voices continue to be ignored and silenced.
I thought long and hard this summer about leaving the education field altogether. I couldn’t get past the year and a half of remote and hybrid instructions when teachers were first heroes and then villains. Eighteen months of teachers re-creating what education used to looked like. Countless hours and days where teachers found methods to motivate and engage students in ways we never believed we could. The endlessly repetitive and tried-and-true speech of “We’ve got to do it for the kids. We truly appreciate you, but you need to do more” from our leaders that failed to motivate.
All I could focus on then was the despair that came from being in the classroom and wrestling with whether becoming an educational leader even made sense. I was stretched past my limit, trying to balance my teaching responsibilities with my postgraduate leadership program. The distancing barriers placed on teachers for our in-person students made teaching feel even more impersonal than the interactions we had when all our students were remote. The passion I had to educate, that I had worked so hard to fulfill, was a soft breeze away from being completely blown out. For the first time, I considered walking away from my career.
But just when I thought I was done, the right educator was put in front of me: A superintendent who was doing things right became one of my most inspiring professors. He was so passionate about our work as educators and the leadership struggles we could encounter that I realized I still believed. And I still believed in having dreams. I still believe that working hard and putting in the effort could amount to something better—for both my students and myself. I’m still in education because I know that the passion that lights a fire in every single one of us usually starts in a classroom. And to nurture that passion, I need to become the type of leader we as teachers need.