Education Teacher Leaders Network

Redefining the Classroom Walls for Professional Growth

By Megan M. Allen — November 15, 2011 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Teaching is a roller coaster, full of highs and lows. There are moments when you feel like you are on top of the world because you know you are making a difference in the life of a child. At other times, you may be tempted to crawl underneath your desk, feeling like half the teacher you should be for your students. Both the highs and lows happen to nearly all of us.

I experienced one of those lows last year. I loved my students so much it still makes me smile to think of them. We cherished learning together—and I gave them everything I could. But by the end of the year, I was feeling beat up, empty, and uninspired. Had I done enough? Had I been able to fill the class with creativity, despite the increasing constraints on that creativity?

I couldn’t put my finger on what had made the year so difficult. It could have been the paperwork, or the massive reforms and legislation effecting educators. Maybe one too many of my special education students had been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility. Maybe I had to make one too many calls to the Department of Children and Families. Or maybe I just forgot to put on my safety harness—and didn’t seek the right supports at the right moments.

Whatever the case, I knew I needed a change. This year, I am working as the Educator in Residence at the University of Central Florida. I am teaching. I am coordinating pre-service teachers who are interns in local schools. I am creating programs to engage them in reflection and dialogue on our craft as teachers. Every day, I wake up excited to interact and learn with my pre-service teachers, knowing that our work together will have a significant impact on the thousands of students they will teach in the future.

It’s challenging work, but I am allowed creative freedom. I am treated like a professional. And with every program that gets rolling, with every student who sits down with me to talk about teaching, with every moment I find myself drawing on years of classroom practice to help a novice, I feel I am growing and thriving.

In short, I am inspired again—just when I feared burnout had gotten the best of me. Even accomplished teachers need room to grow, to spread our wings, to absorb new strategies, to try new things. We need flexibility to emerge as leaders, in and out of the traditional classroom.

Two Angles of Impact

It leaves me scratching my head. Why aren’t accomplished educators encouraged to experience education from different angles? To work outside the typical definition of a classroom, to impact students in other ways? To experience new challenges that will help us better serve our students? To draw upon our expertise to help improve teaching and learning beyond the students we directly serve?

For example, what could happen if our best K-12 teachers spent half their time with their students and half their time working with pre-service teachers? I can see this force of super-teachers in my head: impacting education from two angles at once. Imagine!

So many people have said to me, “Wow. So you left the classroom.” My answer? No, I’ve still got my sleeves rolled up. My classroom now is just much bigger. And this new experience is giving me the jumpstart I needed to reignite my passion for education.

And now I know what made last year so difficult and what will continue to trouble those who pursue teaching as a profession. It’s time to redefine exactly what our “classroom walls” can be—for our own professional growth and also (more importantly) for the good of our students.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP