Have you ever noticed that our educational system expects ambition from our students but not from our teachers?
We want students to have drive, to strive for more, to dream big, but when a teacher dreams big (especially if that dream might take them out of the classroom) he or she is questioned and scrutinized.
Ambition is defined as “a strong desire to do or achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work” and “desire and determination to achieve success”.
In almost any other job, ambition is seen as a positive characteristic. Employees are expected to want to grow, to want to move up the ladder, to be competitive.
But not so much in education.
Don’t get me wrong, of course we want teachers who are excited to work hard in their classrooms and achieve success with their students, but these are not the teachers I’m talking about. I’m talking about the teachers who are bloggers, TPTers, Consultants. The teachers who are branding themselves, reaching out across social media, and trying to grow beyond their classrooms.
These folks, in my opinion, are judged for their dreams.
Why is that?
My friend and colleague Kristen (@westwoodkristen) and I have discussed this a lot, and we have some thoughts:
Education is considered to be a job of passion. In other words, if you are a teacher, you should want to be a teacher forever. You should be happy to be in the classroom with the students for your entire career. If you truly love teaching, there is no reason you’d ever want to leave, right? But if that feeling ever changes, then you’re not really considered a dedicated teacher, even if you’re a stellar educator.
There are not many outlets for ambitious educators. The usual route up is into administration and the other acceptable routes include becoming counselors or librarians. And let’s face it, teachers who move into administration are oftentimes criticized as well.
I know I will not retire from the classroom. And I’ve known that for at least six of my 12 years of teaching. Not because I don’t love teaching, but because I want something more. I can’t help it; it’s just the way I’m built. I want to do more. I want to help more people. I want to work with teachers to help them help their students. Which is why I blog, and network on social media, and lead PD, and attend conferences, and read PD books, and subscribe to an embarrassing number of education blogs.
So when people ask me “why” I get a little frustrated. Why do you write a blog? Why are you on so many committees? Why do you have a teacher IG account? Why are you on Twitter? Why did you go to that conference on Saturday? Why are you trying to leave?
Ugh. It’s tiring because unless you’re in the same boat, I just can’t explain it to you. I’m just ambitious.
Plus, even when teachers are trying to move beyond the classroom, don’t you think all those things they’re doing are probably making them better teachers in the meantime? I know blogging, reading, writing, networking, presenting, etc. is helping me grow as a teacher. Even though I plan to move out of the classroom eventually, it doesn’t mean I’m not still working my butt off in the meantime.
Here’s my point: stop criticizing or judging ambitious teachers. Let them reach for their dreams. Let them grow and move on if that’s what they desire. Do not assume that their ambition undermines their passion: that is simply not fair.
I’d really, really love to hear your thoughts about this! Please share in the comments or reach out on social media! 🙂
Thanks to an email from Gerard Dawson (who was inspired by Seth Godin), I was inspired to post every day for a week. Hopefully, this will get me out of my slump and maybe, just maybe, I’ll have a golden nugget of wisdom to share this week.