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  • Deborah Park

I left the classroom. So....



I left the classroom after teaching for six monumental years as a middle school English teacher. I am now serving as a literacy coach at another school site in the same district. I know that becoming a coach during my seventh year in education seems a bit fast, bro. Yikes. I agree. In the last nine weeks as a literacy coach, I have discovered something new every single day. This is code for I have been HUMBLED. I am re-teaching myself some behavioral psychology 101, finding out my interpersonal communication skills suck, and that I have unrealistically high expectations of everyone and everything, including house plants and command strips. I no longer have an Aeries grade book nor do I have rosters of students that I am responsible for. I still have a classroom, though, and it serves as both an office and a multi-purpose professional learning space for teachers (room tour coming up!). I deeply miss greeting my students at the door and making them excited to read Langston Hughes and find parallels between his linguistic brilliance and the rhymes of some hip-hop geniuses today. I miss mentoring students as they research topics like net neutrality and its impact on education, menstrual taboos, VA medical centers, NSA surveillance, affirmative action, Russian cyber warfare, or the conflicts surrounding milk (yes, people have major feelings surrounding milk variations). I miss building strong relationships with students over lunch, emoji-filled emails, and random conversations where I learn about their parents, their sports games, or inside jokes that have to do with silly gifs and memes. I taught 8th graders.


When I decided to leave the classroom, I honestly had no idea what to expect or even felt confident that I was making the best decision. I knew, however, that this was what I needed to do to grow and continue to learn as an educator. It has only been nine whole weeks since I've started my new job and I have had the opportunity to work with a handful teachers and contribute to school-wide systems at my school site. More than anything, I've had the opportunity to learn about leadership and building efficacy through an exceptional principal. However, if I am being completely honest, I am not sure how my impact can be measured or seen. In a classroom setting, my impact is seen relatively quickly and directly-- a student receives a higher score on an assessment, a class produces five-paragraph essays after 4 weeks of arduous pre-writing and migraine-inducing revision lessons, or a child develops the ability to de-construct a poem and determine its theme by the end of the week. In instructional coaching, impact can be invisible as one must navigate between being a peer and a mentor. At times, it seems like those who seek out support and want to collaborate are the educators who are already growing, reaching out, and finding new ways to become innovative in their classrooms. When I think about why I got into the field of education in the first place (the financial rewards, jk), I wonder if I am making a difference in kids' lives as a literacy coach. I know there's the rationale that if you support a teacher, then the teacher supports the kid, and therefore you also helped the kid. However, I have a tough time believing that and sometimes......in my sweet dreams, I just want to stand at the door of my own classroom, greet my beautifully weird 8th graders, shut the door, and teach my students.


But, who knows? I may be back here in a couple of weeks with a completely different perspective. Here's to my continuum of learning. Cheers.