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Taking a Sabbatical

I’ve been a teacher for 19 years, and I’m a very good one. However, unlike my teacher friends, this July I’m not stressing over getting my classroom ready for the start of school. After a rough two years, I’m taking a year (or at least a semester) off.

My first 11 years of teaching were spent in fourth grade. I loved my students, had excellent state test scores every year, and worked with the best team ever. We really had each other’s backs, regardless of where the challenge came from. Even though we haven’t taught as a team for eight years or more, we still manage to get together a couple of times each year. These women will always be some of my dearest friends.

The change to our school came with a new principal. She decimated our campus, but district office wouldn’t take our concerns to heart no matter how many times we brought the matters to their attention. Under this woman’s reign, teaching was no longer enjoyable. Although the new principal left our fourth grade team alone for the most part, I could no longer stomach watching her be so hateful to other good teachers on campus.

I decided to move on to middle school so I could teach under my former, wonderful principal again and spent five years teaching sixth graders. The first two years there were great, but then my wonderful principal moved on. The middle school staff was good to work with, and I made a couple of good friends, but because of the layout of the campus and the fact that I’m a loner, I didn’t have the camaraderie that was so present with my fourth grade team.

My last move was to a rural high school, at the request of my former, wonderful principal. And, my first year there was amazing. We had an awesome superintendent who valued her staff, loved the district and students, and always put forth a positive message. Everyone was happy to be there, and it was the most relaxed school year I’ve experienced in my career. Unfortunately, our superintendent retired at the end of that year.

The newly appointed, inexperienced superintendent started off the year badly, using the phrase “fire you” at least twice during his opening statement to teachers on the first day of in-service training. He even called out a district office employee in front of all assembled because she hadn’t informed him of a room change for the next meeting. Although this was his first job as a superintendent, he was an extremely arrogant micromanager and made sure everyone knew that he was the boss.

A week later, Hurricane Harvey came through our area and caused extensive damage to our schools. This pushed our first day of school back three weeks, and I felt like a fish out of water. Although my family and I were dealing with our own clean up and restorations caused by the hurricane, I felt very strongly that my students and I needed to be in school.

Once the year finally started, all but four classrooms were displaced. Multiple rooms were set up in the band hall, and several portable buildings were used as well. Things remained upheaved through the first semester.

With the start of the second semester came visits from the new curriculum director. She was also to become the second administrator to decimate a campus at which I taught.

She, too, was a micromanager, and she didn’t like the fact that I had my own way of teaching. She wanted me to use only STAAR-related materials for my instruction. I. Won’t. Do. That.

Although I have received excellent ratings on every evaluation and walk-through I’ve had during my teaching career, she did not think I was a good teacher. My wonderful principal educated her concerning my teaching abilities and success rate, but it didn’t stop the negative vibes this woman transmitted to me and the rest of the staff. It was a miserable second semester, and I knew I shouldn’t go back for another year. But, I did.

On my first day back for the 2018/2019 school year, I realized just how big of a mistake I had made by returning to the district. I was sick to my stomach, anxious, and filled with the sense of impending dread. These feelings stayed with me daily until October when I made the decision that this was my last year teaching in the district.

From that moment on, I was okay. The decision to leave freed me to teach exactly as I knew best without the worry of reprimand.

The devastating part of that decision was that I had to leave my students whom I love so dearly. Being the only freshman and junior English teacher at a small campus means that I had time to make meaningful connections with my students. I love these kids unconditionally and want only the best for each of them. I know in my heart that I was the best for them.

It’s such a tragic loss when trust is put into the wrong people. Two campuses that I worked at were destroyed by two different horrible, micromanaging administrators. These people were bosses. They were not leaders.

Every CEO, superintendent, principal, president, manager, director, coordinator, etc., needs to learn what a true leader is and does.

In my humble opinion, boss is a negative four-letter word. They sit upon their throne or ride around on their high horse yelling the command, “Do as I say!”

A leader, on the other hand, inspires. A leader stands next to you in the trenches humbly asking, “What can I do to help?” A leader works with you to achieve whatever the goal may be and willingly shares in the burden of shortcomings as well as the joy of accomplishments. A leader is what anyone in an authority role should strive to be.

So, after teaching for 19 years, I’m taking one year off to recuperate. I’m using my sabbatical to finish up some projects, start a few new ones, and rekindle my desire to teach. I’m not done yet.

Have a glorious day, and remember, kindness has the power to change the world!

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