Teachers who are tired of the education in the United States are opting to leave out of the country and teach overseas for a Renaissance.

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For the first time in years, I’m experiencing the excitement that new teachers can relate to. I’m “nerve-cited,” a term my daughter coined for our move to teach in the Dominican Republic after 20 years in one public school in northern Vermont. I had to seize an opportunity to shake my foundations, ignite possibilities for change, and immerse in a foreign culture.

Throughout the summer, I packed away our home and had time to consider all the positive ramifications of this cannonball decision.  Starting fresh with the excitement and naïveté of a first-year teacher has helped me nip my cynicism. I find myself expressing more empathy and willingness to let others in my new field lead. And I have this opportunity to start all over as if I have stepped back in time to relive moments without the same mishaps or mistakes. 

Cynicism in Education

Cynicism in education grows from working within cycles of transformational mandates that never seem to transform as much as they promise. In my 20 years of classroom experience, I have rewritten my curricula at least six different times. I have loaded assessments into at least the same number of platforms with studies of data and maps of progression. Each new policy eliminated the data and data systems or the promise that the change would benefit the teachers.

Sooner or later, every educator finds themselves at odds with a mandate and a decision to make about the role they play in the new system. If individuals set aside all that they currently practice, they flounder with the students; if they stay with what they know, they are at odds with their administration- thus, teacher burnout. Colleagues and mentors quit when they no longer had the energy to comply instead of retiring at the height of their careers. In my observation, this system leaves much to be desired.

I began asking myself, what skills are my greatest asset in teaching? Ideologically, what makes me happy?  Self-reflection was not easy; processing through writing and updating my resume did help me to focus on simple and honest answers.

  • Who am I?
  • What values do I really offer?

Retired Teachers…What’s Next?

Several veteran educators I know recently retired after 30 and 40 years of devotion to education.  They were revered and admonished for a pedagogy predicated on routine instruction with routine assessment. Routines present a culture of normalcy and expectations that parents who also graduated from this community could enforce or encourage. On the other hand, too much routine presented resentment or distrust in kids who struggled to learn and needed the differentiated instruction that developed over the years. New teachers embrace change well but lack consistent classroom management. 

Those of us in the middle were in a state of perpetual mediocrity.  Adapting to new technologies or methodologies was taxing and became derisive, creating a social gap in the faculty based on years of experience. We all know how to teach, our record shows this, but our methodology for improvement only served to prevent unification or consent. Instead of a focus on incentives were focused on a fallacy- what are we doing wrong? Why am I still here? There’s nowhere to go.

A Renaissance is Happening

However, a renaissance is taking place with veteran teachers. While I have never wanted to leave teaching for administration, it has been the traditional path with the greatest reward. Instead, I made a decision to work towards a second certification and a Masters in a field outside my content area. While I found this niche in literacy, my husband embraced a transitional move towards technology integration, and a colleague pursued STEM studies. Suddenly, dual certification was a value; our flexibility in various fields meant that we could work with our administration to design the parameters of our new roles and fill required services.

An English teacher creating a game design, a science teacher revamps a tech ed class with STEM studies and robotics. The benefit of having veterans morph into new positions en par with new hires means everyone communicates with the same research and common terminology. The nervous excitement stimulates discussion for shared lessons and ideas. Healthy transitions lead to organic collaboration; empathy is a positive force.

Classrooms Out of A Physical Space

Values in education shifted when classrooms stopped being contained in physical spaces. Online communities, weekly Twitter chats, and forums through Twitter or sometimes Facebook led me to a paradigm shift.  Blogs and #edu sites were the question/answers and experimentation I never had time for during the day. This wider network made me aware of conferences, model school communities, grants, and fellowships. I became a beta tester for applications and wrote reviews of products. I found the courage to present at conferences and defend my research.  

These dialogues fuel appreciation and respect, which I could share with my students. Their input was invaluable, and the changes were part of their reality. Suddenly, my future was less bleak. I have expanded the classroom beyond the school’s physical walls; I’m no longer contained. Then, the power of positive feedback led me and my husband to consider an ultimate risk: we applied to teach abroad.  Two years of goal setting, building a resume, and designing active research led me to know that my identity is more important than where I am.

A New Renaissance: Dominican Republic

We accepted positions in new fields of study in the Dominican Republic. Our current school afforded us a two-year leave. Right now, we are a bridge between these school communities that offers enrichment we couldn’t offer before.  And everyone likes this power of positive feedback. I sat with several other new teachers here in this new school and discovered that they, too, took a risk and gave up all that was safe and secure to seek the excitement of teaching that was somehow lost among the years of experience.

Starting fresh so far from home meant an opportunity to reinvent identity. In our discussions, we have all concluded that we live in an era now where learning is not only linear, and our futures do not have to be predictable. The future of education relies on feedback between educators, administrators, and students who have roles as agents of change. Even if the choice is to stay grounded, to find value in routine, it works because it is a nerve-citement choice.

To listen to Whitney’s podcast, click below. https://podomatic.com/embed/html5/episode/8210435?autoplay=true

I teach High school and middle school students World History, AP World History, Reading Instruction,...

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