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Why I Stay in the Classroom

By Melissa Collins 

In choosing my career, I desired a field that I was passionate about. I wanted to change the world.

I chose teaching.

As a teacher, you are not just a master facilitator of content knowledge. You are a mentor, confidant, and friend to your students and colleagues. You are a lifeline.

I knew that with the amount of passion, dedication, and patience I possessed; I was the right candidate for the job. I can't say the road hasn't had its ups and downs but there are many components that helped me stay in the profession. For every teacher it may look different. Here is a glimpse of why I stay.


I Stay Because I Have Support

Many organizations and people supported me as I grew into the teacher leader I am today, challenging me to develop my own voice and expand my horizons. They have highlighted and recognized my accomplishments which stimulated me to continue to soar as a teacher leader. My school leaders gave me the chance to lead inside and outside of my classroom walls and school community. Many diverse professional learning experiences allowed me to emerge from my comfort zone and try something different for the advancement of my students. This supportive community of educators reassured me that I matter to the profession and to those who need me the most: my students.

I Stay Because I Must Model What I Preach

Over the years, I have advocated for the teaching profession at the local, state, and national levels. I have encouraged policymakers and organizations to support educators to advance policy and practice that best serves all students­. It has always been my aspiration to attract and retain educators. Therefore, I stay in the profession to demonstrate to others that I am practicing what I preach and desire to see in our schools.

I Stay Because of the Spark

My classroom is my center stage, and I understand the power that being in the classroom holds. The curriculum and standards drive the work that I do in my classroom, but I am willing to take risks to make learning fun and relevant to students. I bring innovative ideas into my classroom so students will be challenged to achieve at high levels. It is imperative to have autonomy in your classroom to create a spark of learning for students. The sparks I create for and with my students lend to authentic learning and those coveted "ah-ha" moments.

I Stay Because of My Colleagues

Over the years, I have learned that it is important for me to surround myself with other educators who want to advance in the profession for students and themselves. I call on these educators to hear their suggestions or ideas and to challenge me. This collaboration and collegiality builds a sense of community among professionals that keeps them excited about learning and growing.

The profession comes with its trials and tribulations. Everything does. But with a steady stream of support, a "practice what you preach" mentality, a love for creating those "sparks" for kids, and a network of collegiality, we can and will improve outcomes for students by attracting and retaining educators into the profession that I so love. Hopefully, they also are empowered to remain where they are needed most...in the classroom.

Dr. Melissa Collins is a 2014 Finalist for Tennessee Teacher of the Year, a member of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, a National Board Certified Teacher, Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, NEA Foundation Senior Advisor, and a Top 50 Finalist for the 2018 Global Teacher Prize. She teaches Second Grade at John P. Freeman Optional School in Memphis, Tennessee. 

Images by _Mogi, courtesy of Creative Commons.

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