As memoir authors, it is our hope then when we publish our books, the words are moving, and connect deeply with our readers. I remember that when I was working through the edits in my manuscript, Breaking the Silence: My Final Forty Days as a Public School Teacher, I paid special attention to the way I used my words to carry out the two main themes of my book, as well as to invoke a sense of personal responsibility in my readers. At times, it was a daunting task, as our language plays such a key role in how others perceive our stories.
My editor was monumental in helping me stay consistent in tone throughout my heart-wrenching story of leaving the teaching profession after 15 years. To be honest, my goal was to tell the story of my final forty days as each one unfolded, and to do that with raw feelings and emotions, and vulnerability. I am happy to say, looking back, that I did do that, but what happened following my book’s publication wasn’t expected.
Teachers from across this country continue to email me, after finishing my book, and thank me for the honest truth of what was revealed on those pages. You see, teachers are in a tough place right now. Many wonderful teachers love the work they do, but have been “beaten-down” by a system that is more focused on data and test scores, rather than students as individual, creative learners. This is heartbreaking; and to make matters worse, teachers can’t talk too much, or too openly, about their disgust, lest they be punished or fired. This is common knowledge in the teaching field, but the general public doesn’t realize just how closed-mouth we must remain to keep our jobs.
So, when I left, I decided I would speak openly about why I was leaving a career I so dearly loved, and what it took to come to terms with that, and to reinvent myself after 15 years as a teacher. I left because I never wanted to become that bitter teacher who just stayed because of the benefits or pension, so I dug my heels in deep and got to work building a business.
My book has resonated with the teaching community and created quite a movement. I am now in a position, from the “other side”, to write and speak about the problems in public education that are not best for students. I can advocate in the schools I consult with, because I don’t have to be worried about getting fired for my student-centered views. All of the emails from teachers, thanking me, commiserating with me, congratulating me, inspired me to take this message even farther.
The Transforming Public Education Podcast was born in early March. Within 13 weeks of its launch, it has hit #3 in the Kids & Family section on iTunes. This podcast is a place for teachers, parents, students, and administrators to talk openly about how they are infusing their classrooms and school buildings with more love, compassion, and gratitude on a daily basis. I believe these are three ingredients that are completely missing in public education reform. The podcast has been called “a much needed voice for education reform” and “a show that gives practical tips for teachers to find the joy of teaching once again”. These, among many other comments, make my heart sing; and show that there are many, many great things happening in public schools across this country, if only the mainstream media would choose to report on those aspects, and not the negative.
It is humbling to think that my personal story of why I had to leave education has now created a movement of teachers who are taking action, in whatever ways they can, to save our public schools, and to speak out about the many great things happening in them. This is the power of a memoir that is written from the most raw, vulnerable, heart-centered position. This is the power of words that unite and connect readers from one coast to the other. This is the power of truth.
As I prepare for the future, as a podcast host, author, and Huffington Post writer, I remember to start each day with gratitude. And after counting the many ways I am grateful, I set an intention for the day, one that will continue to inspire those invested in the public school system of this nation, so that we can work toward a better future for our youth. Our students deserve an education which is engaging and empowering, our teachers deserve to be treated with the utmost respect, and our nation deserves leaders who are critical and creative thinkers.