Jessica Craig is a former classroom teacher and current Learning and Leading Strategist in Douglas County School District. She is a persistent learner, creator, and enthusiast in educational innovation.
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This year, I chose to accept an opportunity outside of the classroom. Instead of teaching children, I chose to teach teachers. My new position is worlds different, yet entirely the same.
At first, I dearly missed my classroom — “my canvas.” My classroom, my students, and my practice were my outlets for creativity and my way of using that creativity to impact others. At first, I worried my new role would never provide me the opportunity for creative freedom, or the passion and impact that comes as a result. I worried that I’d made a mistake.
Then one day, I realized that I still have a canvas. It just looks different now.
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For one, it is much larger and has the potential to reach a much greater audience. The art on the canvas is more abstract, it takes a while for others to see the beauty behind what you’re creating. Others who share my same passion and vision are also adding their own strokes, and together our marks will begin to take shape and create meaning and impact beyond what I could have imagined myself.
Day to day, my new role feels very familiar. Some days I’m a shoulder to lean on, and some days I’m a listening ear. I still have to think on my feet when things aren’t going as planned, and I still sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a great idea that keeps me from falling asleep again.
My work is still driven by and for the needs of today’s student, but I have a different avenue of impact. Instead of through direct interactions with the student, my impact must first travel through a growth-minded teacher.
My work is still about relying on strengths, but recognizing needs and challenges, and finding creative solutions. I still take risks, and I still fail.
I’m no longer impacting the lives of just 26 students. I am impacting many more learners, including teachers, who need and deserve just as much support and attention as they give their students. My process for supporting them is even the same: recognize their strengths, identify their needs, and collaborate with them to create something new.
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It’s a whole new perspective. I’m seeing things from a new height. I’m now on the balcony looking down at the dance floor. When I was a teacher, I was so caught up in my own dance (or rather, I was so frantically trying to build the ballgown as I danced), that I never had a beat to look around and see all that was going on around and above me. I never took the time to truly appreciate all of the people who were working behind the curtains, and all of the pieces that must be in place for the show to go on.
Will I ever go back to the classroom? I definitely hope to someday.
For now, everything has changed, but everything is the same.
Perhaps, best of all, I’ve discovered that maybe it’s not the role of teaching itself that is so special to me, but what’s at the heart of it, building relationships and inspiring others to reach their full potential. That skill is transferable to any role I’ll hold in my life. I’ve learned that no matter where your career takes you, you can choose to make a difference and have a positive impact on others.