Hello Field Trippers…on this episode of The Field Trip Teacher podcast I am going to tackle a question I get daily through my DM box…Why I left the classroom? But first let's talk about something that is on my heart and I have all the feels about.
All of you that listened to the first episode and reached out to share your excitement and love for the show completely warmed my heart and I just want to take a moment and say THANK YOU! This adventure can be scary and putting yourself out there on social media can be so scary especially when you aren't sure how your story will be received.
But just like anything else in life, boring never makes history! Am I right?But just like anything else in life, boring never makes history! Am I right? Click To Tweet
One of the things that I want to make a regular segment on the podcast is a listener shout out! Without you this would just be me sitting in my room, talking to myself! And well, that's just a little weird.
Today's listener shout out is from Shelby and this was a DM I received on Instagram. Shelby is a first grade teacher in Texas and she writes,
“Farrah I am so excited for your new journey. I have followed your journey since first finding you on YouTube a few years ago and have loved watching everything you do. You are so real in your approach to everything you did in the classroom and life. I learned so much watching your videos on classroom management and classroom engagement and now I am excited to learn from you as you live your dream! I hope that we get the chance to meet in person someday…just let me know if your travels ever make it through my neck of the woods. As you say in your weekly emails…keep being an educational rockstar!”Shelby P. – First Grade Teacher Texas
WOW! That just made me tear up! Thank you Shelby! I hope we get to meet soon as well! And if you are listening we want you to know that we would love to meet you as well! As we head back out on the road this spring we are looking forward to sharing where we are and meeting up for coffee with listeners!
We love hearing from listeners! Your DM's and emails have been so fun to read and we want to continue to give listener shout outs here on the show! So if you haven't already, we would love if you would jump over to iTunes and leave a review of the podcast. Maybe your review will get shared on air!
Ok…so now it's time to jump in and get right to the point. This episode is a little scary for me because I am not sure anyone other than my personal inner circle really knows the answer to this question.
Why I Left the Classroom
I get asked all the time, “Farrah, why did you leave the classroom?” Most of the time it is accompanied with how much someone enjoyed watching me go live from my classroom on social media to share what I was teaching that day and the methods and strategies I was using and how much they were going to miss that.
Other times it was met with major negativity on how I was abandoning my calling and my students and being selfish. First let me just put this out there, when I made the decision to leave the classroom it was not a decision I made lightly. As you will see it wasn't a decision I was even sure about the first time. It…was…gut…wrenching.
Teaching had been MY LIFE for 15 years…at the time of this recording it's been 16 years. It wasn't a career that I chose…it chose me and I have shared that in professional development sessions over the years, but it was a path in life that I was definitely meant to be on. Leaving that path, traveling into the unknown, no pun intended, to pursue my dreams…was VERY SCARY!
Early on in my career I began sharing on social media all things related to my classroom. I found myself thrust into somewhat of a spotlight by a company that provided professional developement to teachers all over the world.
I was just a new teacher in Texas who was struggling with classroom management and found a video on YouTube! But in typical Farrah style, I couldn't just stop there! I had to take it to the 1000th extreme and once I started having success with these methods in my own classroom, I decided that I needed to share also.
Don't worry FERPA friends…I had explicit permission from parents to share my classroom. In a file box in storage I have 13 years of permission slips signed by parents to share what we were doing and acheiving in our classroom on social media and the blog!
Ok…I digress! I began sharing and uploading videos, and well….this phenomenon of teachers followng other teachers on social media took off. I wasn't the reason for that, I just managed to come in on the ground level of the movement and it was amazing! To make it even more amazing…the very orgainzation that had helped me transform my own teaching and classroom wanted me on their team!
I had teachers all over the world reaching out and asking questions. I was traveling all over and talking about the methods and strategies in my classroom and the success I was having! I was on cloud nine! Not to mention the success I was experiencing with my students.
Sure I had the typical classroom! Perfect students (is there such a thing), challenging students, growing students, you name it! But, every group of students and I were ROCKING and CRUSHING IT! The learning and growth in my classroom and students along with getting to share it all with teachers all over the world was a DREAM COME TRUE!
Then….it all came crashing down…over some BLUE BALLS…I'll explain in a moment! I had poured my heart and soul, blood sweat and tears, my very identity into my classroom and this professional development company. But, I had lost sight of what was most important…ME AND MY STUDENTS!
In 2016, while sharing a video from my classroom on social media, it happened. The phone rang…I answered. On the other end of the line was something I was sure must be a mistake. My mentor, the founder of the PD company I was a part of, someone I had looked up to for the past 8 years was telling me…STOP! STOP sharing!
Now, I won't go into all the gory details but the basic gist of his call was to tell me that if I was going to share it had to ONLY be about the company's methods and NOTHING ELSE! NOTHING! According to my mentor, I had become the face of this company and I had to be a purest, so to speak. I couldn't share anything other that what his company believed was the PATH TO SUCCESS for teachers.
I was broken! I couldn't see myself not sharing ALL the THINGS from my classroom. I couldn't see myself NOT sharing the amazing flexible seating that transformed my classroom…those blue yoga balls! I couldn't see myself NOT sharing the amazing methods and strategies that were making me LOVE going to school each day. I was devastated.
Now, this isn't why I left the classroom! That would be just dumb. But, it did change the trajectory of my path! I knew that I couldn't stay with a company that wasn't truly about helping teachers! They were more about their own company's bottom line.
No longer was I able to share freely. Videos I put out had to be carefully planned, and scripted. See that challenging student in the front row…yeah let's put him/her in the back off camera. It has to look PERFECT! It was not the authentic look into my classroom that I loved sharing with my fellow teachers.
I had had ENOUGH! The funny thing was, I wasn't walking away from a job…I was a volunteer! I was giving my time and energy for FREE!
So, I decided that it was time for it to be just about me and my students! That's what it should be about anyway…right? It was time to get back to the basics and just be a teacher.
Those next three years were the WORST years of my teaching career. Now some of you may be thinking WOW…all this over sharing your classroom with teachers? No…that was a bit of a relief because I didn't feel like I had to be at 100 every day of the week for fear of who was watching…or so I thought.
The Next Chapter
Each of the schools I taught at during those last three years, YES there were three different schools, had sought me out and hired me because they had attended a training, or saw a YouTube video, and wanted me on their team because of it! Teacher dream right?….not so fast.
In each situation, I found myself once again being told what to share, when to share, and how to share. No longer was I able to be real! One school I taught at even wanted me to shoot video of my classroom, give it to them to edit and polish, before putting it out! It became a production. A “look at us and what we are doing”! Sound familar?
I was exhausted! I was tired of not being able to just close my door and enjoy my students and teach! I was equally as tired of not being able to share the REAL behind the scenes look at what teaching is really like. I was tired of being a puppet in everyone elses show.
I know I am a great teacher in my own classroom and I just wanted to teach! No more trainings, no more professional development, NO MORE! I just wanted to shut my door and teach! So that is what I did! Then, I met someone that totally changed my life.
A sweet friend, and fellow teacher, reached out to me about providing professional development for the teachers at his school. I reluctantly said yes as I really didn't want to go down that road again.
In preparing for this conference he and I spent a lot of time chatting about all the things that had happened over the past few years and why I wasn't sharing as much anymore. In the end he kinda became my therapist in a way…even if he doesn't realize it!
At the end of the conference, when we were packing up to leave, he said something to me that stuck with me and changed my trajectory once again….he said,
“Farrah, you have a gift. You are an amazing teacher. You can close the doors and teach your 25 students a year for the next how ever many years, or, you can totally step into what I believe is your calling and help as many teachers as you can and touch thousands of students each year!”
WOW! Talk about something to think about! I returned to my classroom and head down, closed my door and taught! I heard him and his words…but I hadn't HEARD HIM!
UNTIL…one day, a few years later, while talking to another fellow teacher, and commiserating over all the things that teachers commiserate over, she asked, “Why did you stop helping other teachers?”
I lamented over all the previous things I mentioned and she looked at me and said…”Um, so you're gonna let that stop you from doing what you were meant to do?”
That my friends was it! She was right! And so was he! But now, it was a challenge for my life! I knew that I would be SERVING better by helping other teachers find their passion whether that was in or out of the classroom.
I loved teaching in the classroom. I love each and every one of my students. When I left the classroom I didn't however, love the state that our current education system is in and so many teachers are stressed, burned out, and not able to be the educational rockstars they were meant to be.
But now it was time. I was at a point in my life where I COULD step away from the classroom and have an impact on more that just 25 students a year. I could have an impact on thousands each year. I wanted to help teachers all over the world know what it feels like to LOVE YOUR JOB and not be stressed!
It was time to throw everything I had into my online community of teachers help THEM! By helping THEM I would be touching the lives of so many students as well!
So there you have it…the reason I left the classroom. I loved teaching and loved my students each year, yes even my most challenging students. I didn't leave the classroom because I hated teaching.
I left the classroom because I finally realized what my true calling in this path was. I was meant to help teachers find the joy and love of their craft that I had when I was in the classroom.
I worried that if I left the classroom it would make me irrelevant. I worried that I wouldn't have anything to share now that I left the classroom and didn't have students to video. But, what I have found is just the opposite.
I have 16 years of experience under my belt. I have life experience that can possibly help younger new teachers avoid some of the mistakes I made along the way. I also have a daughter that is completing her educational program to become a teacher and is gonna need guidance along the way.
This new season in my life since I left the classroom also allows me the opportunity to travel and fulfill some of my dreams. I left the classroom to become more than JUST A TEACHER!
I left the classroom to become what I was meant to be! I am excited about sharing that as well with fellow teachers who are perhaps seeing their own careers make a change in trajectory.
It's a new journey, an exciting journey, and one that I am excited to take you all on with me! Since I left the classroom, I have made so many connections, true connections with teachers all over the world. If you are a teacher listening to this podcast, I would love for you to join myself and so many more teachers over on Mrs. Shipley's Classroom FB Community!
Until next time Field Trippers!
Episode 1- Meet the Henleys