I am returning to my blog after a somewhat extended absence. Neglecting the blog was not something with which I had hoped to contend, but it became a necessity in the last couple of months as I went through a career change. After ten years of teaching, I am making the move into administration and leaving my school for a new job.
I am excited and also a bit nervous about the changes I am experiencing, and all of that is probably appropriate. I have been reflecting a good bit over the past several weeks, and the moments my life has given me to do that have been ample. My last graduating class, my last class period of students, parting ways with colleagues, packing up my classroom – all of these events have put me in quite the reflective mood of late. It has been a good exercise, to think back on the last ten years and contemplate all of the work that has been done. What have I accomplished? What would I do differently if given the chance?
Then there’s the forward-looking question… Quo Vadis? For those without a taste for Latin – “Where are you going?” This phrase is traditionally attributed by Christians to St. Peter. The story goes that Peter was struggling in his early days as a missionary in Rome. The issues he found himself dealing with in the capital city were so overwhelming that he had begun to doubt whether or not he was up to the task. At a given point, anticipating not only resistance but the possibility of death, he resolved to give up the entire enterprise and he was on the road leaving the city when he had an amazing vision. Jesus, whom in the Gospels Peter had last seen not only resurrected but also ascending bodily into heaven, was walking on the road INTO Rome, just as Peter was fleeing the same. Knowing that he would find only suffering and probably crucifixion in Rome, the question was posed by Peter to Christ – Quo Vadis? Where are you going? Christ’s response was that he was headed to Rome to be crucified again. Tradition tells us that this response gave Peter the courage he needed to turn around, return to Rome, and ultimately embrace the uncertain future that awaited him.
Changing career paths has been an extraordinary opportunity for me to reconsider my purpose in life and to rededicate myself to a personal sense of mission, much as the vision on the road leaving Rome was for Peter. I have wondered aloud and silently about the implications of changing something about my life that is so intertwined with my sense of identity. After all, if I am not a teacher, then who am I?? My conclusion is that I may have traded my classroom for an office, but I remain an educator. I also remain committed to a vision of facilitating the growth and achievement of young people. I have not always succeeded in that mission, and will likely have future stumbles, but the power of reflective moments like these are important sources of strength to muster up the courage to soldier on in the face of difficulty.
I would suggest that the question to the entire field of education is the same – Quo Vadis? Where are you going? Teachers and professional educators have struggled of late in the face of growing scrutiny and morphing trends, as well as shifting budget priorities. What will be the response of our profession to the challenges that we face? Will it be Peter’s initial impulse to retreat from the mission ahead, or will it be to renew and redouble our focus, using this moment to propel us forward into what awaits?