About Lauren Norris

I've been a reading specialist for the last ten years and most recently a literacy coach for Pre-K to grade 5 in an elementary school. I began my career teaching honors British and World Literature to high school juniors and seniors. Developed elective course curricula for Shakespeare and Women In Literature courses. Next, I moved on to middle school, teaching grade 8 English Language Arts for 7 years. English department chair for 6 years. I worked as a literacy resource teacher for grades 6-8 and wrote, coordinated, and led professional development to teachers on a weekly basis for four years. I often joke that I went from teaching Shakespeare to teaching Pete the Cat, and I would have it no other way!

ltrofresignationSome, if not many of you are tired.  Exhausted beyond all measure.  Brand new to the field of education or a veteran teacher, you are frustrated, overwhelmed, spread so dangerously thin, perhaps full of doubts and wondering just how effective you are.  I get it.  I really do.  Let me tell you my story.

Last school year was one of the most challenging ones I have had in a long time, both physically and emotionally.  So much so, that in November I went on a leave of absence.  Then by January of this year, I resigned from my beloved position as an elementary reading specialist and literacy coach. This was my dream job! I had spent almost five years in my small private school, had an amazing supportive administrative team, an incredible group of teachers, the freedom to develop and write my own RTI curriculum, the sweetest kids with whom to work, AND, my classroom was just down the hall from where my two youngest sons were.  We saw each other in the hallway several times a day and I was blessed to get numerous hugs and kisses on a daily basis.

So what went wrong? Why did I give it all up? Did I have terrible working conditions?  Am I wealthy or even comfortable financially?  The answer to this a resounding “NO!”  Although I was dealing with medical issues, in my heart I knew that I needed to be home for numerous reasons.  After twenty-four years in education, I was weary, yes, but still had an unquenchable passion for literacy and igniting a spark in my little readers.  However, I was of the age where I knew what my priorities were and also knew my limitations.  And, I had reached the conclusion that no, I cannot do it all:  I cannot be a dedicated wife and mother, taking care of the household according to my expectations AND be an effective teacher.

 See, I cannot do it all, and at this point in my life I do not want it all. And I’m not afraid to admit it. I’m well aware that I am a feminist nightmare.  I admire women who can keep an immaculate or even a reasonably clean home, cook healthy meals, work all day, take care of their own children, and work half the night preparing for the next day, grading papers, participating in community events, etc.   If you are a teacher, you know that the work never stops.  Your brain is always on. There is always something to do.  And if you are like me, you don’t settle for doing something the same way twice.  How can you?  Each year you have a new batch of kids who are unique and deserve the best that you can give.  So, although I don’t always recreate the proverbial wheel, I always tweak and customize my units and activities each year.

I have a somewhat unique situation.  I really have two families.  My oldest son is twenty, and my youngest two are 6 and 7 years old.  Way back in the 1990’s, I did it all.  I taught 130 middle school kids a day, did after school enrichment, led department meetings after school, took graduate classes at night, worked on curriculum in the summer, and was a single mother. I’m a self-professed workaholic and perfectionist.  I tried so hard to be the perfect mother and perfect professional.  The county in which I taught leveled intense pressure on its teachers: test scores, test data, (repeat 10 times), etc.  In spite of it all, I loved my job, I loved being a mom, and my heart was always calling me to be home… to attend my son’s class parties, to volunteer in the classroom, to go on field trips, and to not be so mentally drained and physically exhausted at the end of the day.  Because at the end of the day for years and years, I barely had any more to give.  And that is sad.

 So now, I am starting all over again with two little ones.  My oldest is grown and is in college.  The littles are in first and second grades.  And I do not want to repeat history and regret spending more time with my students than my own children.  And that tugging at my heart did not stop.  After much praying, much thought, much discussion with my husband, we decided that I had to be home… I had to give it all up to gain it all. My family is my purpose… I know that some will cringe at that, but it is really what I feel I’m called to do.  Yes, God called me to teach and I am passionate about my career. But I’m even more passionate about this beautiful family that He has blessed me with.

 What about money and logistics?  That is a tough one.  We are not rich, and as I mentioned earlier, we are not even financially comfortable.  Each day can be a struggle, but in the end, I have all that I need.  I have three boys when I never thought that I’d have children.

 Here’s something else…

  •   I do not live in nor do I desire to have a huge or even medium size, fancy house.  My humble, little cozy house is one that we love.


  •    I do not need a new car… well, I do, but my mini-van is hanging in there, barely, but for today, it runs.


  •     I’m beyond needing cute, trendy clothes and jewelry… we buy ours at the thrift shop and my sons receive hand-me-downs from my sister.


  •    I don’t really need the monthly hair appointments, manicures, and pedicures.  Do I miss them?  Yes!!!!


  •    We don’t take many vacations and when we do it is to spend time with family in Ocean City, MD.  We are blessed that we can stay with family and not have to pay outrageous prices for hotels, condos, or beach houses.


  •    I don’t have a Smart phone, iPad, or new computer.  What I have is adequate enough.

I could go on… but I won’t.  It is not my intention to offend or offer judgment on those that have different priorities than me. This is what works for me and my family.  For us, it just isn’t worth it for me to work to pay for the above-mentioned material things.  I would rather be home taking care of my family and being physically, mentally, and emotionally strong for them. My calling is to take care of the “nest” and make life as stable, fun, and loving as I possibly can for my kids and for my husband.

 But, I need to simplify… I need time to breathe… I need time to cherish the time with my children, with my husband.  To be in the moment as much as I can.

 That is my story, and I’m sticking to it.  Unlike the ubiquitous blog posts and videos that have recently gone viral, I did not leave my career because of ludicrous teacher evaluations, the Common Core State  Standards controversy, the plethora of questionable state tests, or poor working conditions.  But, your story may be very different and you may be questioning just how long you can last.

 Because of your circumstances you may not be able to take the brave (and as some have told me an impractical and crazy) leap of faith that I did.  Perhaps you do not even want to.   I urge you to push through the red tape, the unrealistic expectations, the unending work, and remember why you chose this profession in the first place:  to have an impact on a child’s life, to make a difference, to love these students who have unspeakable home conditions, to challenge and mentor those that have such promise to make a difference in our global community.   We need you, we count on you, and despite the bad press, there are plenty of parents, colleagues, and other stake holders who value your work and dedication.

But, you need also to listen to your heart and be true to your personal convictions and what is important to you. And ask yourself:  What does having it all mean?  Do I even what it all?

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