I have been planning to write about this for a while, but have been trying to get into the swing of things since my summer really just started this week. I was lucky enough to be a part of the Greater Kansas City Writing Project’s Summer Institute this year and I spent the past four weeks with about 25 other teachers from all over this city reading, writing, talking and reflecting. It was hands down the most phenomenal continuing education or professional development opportunity I’ve ever had and I’m so glad that I was able to work with such amazing people, even for just a short time. I was accepted to the SI on the basis of my being an early childhood (preschool) teacher. However, I honestly thought that what I would learn in this experience would be useful for me down the road when I finish my certification and am in my own high school English classroom. That could not have been further from the truth.
In essence, I was given four weeks to revitalize my teaching spirit, to reflect on all the ways I really love what I do right now – not what I might do down the road. And, I was validated on so many levels as an early childhood educator. I thought I might not have much to bring to the table every day – we deal with SUCH different classroom dynamics – at least I thought we did! It turns out that much of what I do is happening in classrooms all over the city, and I assume all over the country. The biggest difference is that I have these kiddos at the beginning of their educational journey, and they might be a little bit smaller! I was immediately made to feel at home, and my thoughts and inquiry were supported and validated by the other fellows.
I made the decision in the past four weeks to quit my education classes and spend one full year focusing on what I’m doing right now. I feel like I owe it to myself and to my employer to give as much of myself as possible this year – to really reflect on why I teach these little people and how much I really affect their lives. I simply never saw myself as a preschool teacher for the long haul…all that money spent on my English degree? Where would I use it? The answer became quite clear throughout these weeks: I am using it, and I can use it in so many ways that I’ve never explored in detail. I’m really excited to not have to think about papers, reading books other people have assigned me, and just being gone several nights a week from my family. I’m anxious to focus my energy on my preschool classroom in a way I’ve not been willing or able to in the past few years. I feel like this is really a new beginning for me in many ways.
I honestly cannot say enough how thrilled I am to have had the SI experience. I got to know a fantastic bunch of funny, smart, motivated teachers, teachers who give me hope that our schools have promise and a bright, bright future. It made me realize that too often we overlook the people who are doing great things just to focus on what a mess the system has become.