“But I Thought You Were Happy in Middle School?”

“I never envisioned that I would leave my beloved eighth graders, but…”

Annie Mewborn is a ninth grade English teacher at Easton High School and 2016–2017 Talbot County Teacher of the Year. She is in her 13th year as an educator and holds a master’s degree in education, specializing in learning and technology.

Why would you want to leave middle school, I thought you were happy there?” was one of the responses I received when my colleagues learned that I was transferring from middle school to teaching high school freshmen.

Honestly, it was a little daunting for me. Having briefly taught elementary and then middle school for nine years, I never envisioned that I would leave my beloved eighth graders, but I was ready for change — even though I loved the atmosphere and content area. But I felt I was becoming complacent and found myself yearning for a new experience. I wanted to expand my knowledge and experience for my own personal growth. As lifelong educators, we are not necessarily static; we are able to diversify and provide instruction at a variety of levels. The question is how do you know when a change is right for you?

Trust Your Instincts

Often the most obvious decisions are already known within us. But we choose to ignore them because conventional wisdom, family members, friends, and even strangers say otherwise. Our own fears, either internal or those projected onto us by others, can also get in the way from reaching the goals and life experiences we value the most.

Initially, the idea of change seemed so ominous that I began second-guessing myself. Was I proficient enough as a teacher to handle the requirements that came with preparing my students to become college and career-ready?

I can truly say that I am very happy with the choice I made. Placing confidence in myself — and my knowledge as an educator — I know my instincts were right.

New Team, New Perspectives

For some, entering a new department and working with new people is A TERRIFYING EXPERIENCE! To even the most seasoned educator, the unfamiliar can bring discomfort. There will be a shift in the way in which discipline, procedures, policies, and instructional and even professional practices are handled, but it’s okay. This is when it’s important to build collegial relationships. Each building has its own set of unspoken rules and routines and you can’t expect to know them without asking. Be open and receptive. Share your expertise. Letting fellow staff see you as an asset can allow for a smooth transition.

Change Means Growth

This is an opportunity to expand and diversify your teaching repertoire! While this is possible in your current position, being in a new environment can help solidify where your professional passion lies. Is it curriculum development or blended learning?

Perhaps you’ve considered exploring various certifications to specialize in your content area?

Maybe your interest lies in becoming a mentor–teacher?

Gleaning knowledge from past as well as new experiences can create opportunities to take on leadership roles and/or professional responsibilities.

It Really Does All Come Together

This was the coolest thing to me. Seeing the maturity levels of former students and how they changed from one grade to the next is really amazing! I have a much better understanding of the puzzle. I know where they’ve been and where they need to be in the end. What better way to model for my students to be open to new experiences than to challenge myself?

My decision has not only given me a more diverse perspective of the profession as a whole, it has allowed me to continue being intellectually motivated and fulfilled in my career.