Today Ali and JoDee sit down and chat with Alicia Hess, a former teacher and elementary school administrator who recently made her great resignation. We’ll talk about what led Alicia to resign, the expectations versus reality in education, and the unwritten responsibilities some assistant principals experience in their role.
Connect with Ali and JoDee:
Ali’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alisimon/
JoDee’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jodeescissors/
For episode transcriptions visit: https://thegreatteacherresignation.buzzsprout.com
All teachers are natural innovators, entertainers and problem solvers. They dream of growing old into the profession, teaching their kids kids. But sometimes career goals shift or change, and that makes opportunities outside of the classroom seem intangible questioning who am I if I'm not a teacher? I'm your host, Alexandra Simon.
And I'm your co-host, JoDee Scissors.
This is The Great Teacher Resignation.
Excited for another episode of The Great Teacher Resignation today. We have a guest named Alicia Hess on the show today. Alicia is a former teacher and elementary school administrator. She's dedicated over 14 years to Baltimore County Public Schools, and recently made her great resignation. Thank you for being on the show today.
Thanks for having me. Super excited to be here.
Thank you for joining us. So before we get started diving into what we're going to be discussing, I want to say that I'm really glad that Alicia is on with us today, because I've known her for some time now, and we met through mutual friends. And we instantly made a connection because we were both teachers. And the major thing though, that really drew my connection with Alicia was that when we talked about the school setting, and we talked about our students, she spoke about her students in such a positive light. And when I try to build my network of teachers, that's kind of my first listen for is how does this teacher talk about her job? How does she talk about kids? And she always spoke so positively. And even through the challenges that we spoke about, she spoke about her students with dignity, and hope. And she put her students first. And that was really what I took from her. So when you reached out, I was very surprised. Because you're the kind of teacher that I was like, I would love my child to be in your classroom, just based on the way that you cared for your students academically and emotionally. And I really love that about you. And so now, I'm very curious about your next steps, and learning about how you recently resigned from your position as an assistant principal, and where you are today and how you're feeling?
Yeah, well thank you JoDee. Oh my gosh, what a great thing for someone to say about you. So I thank you for that. And yeah, I'm actually very surprised and myself that this is where I am at this point. But I feel relief. And as a person who, no shame in saying it, struggles with some major anxiety and and my own social emotional well being has really improved since I've just decided that this isn't for me anymore. There's still guilt. But you know, all in all, I feel like it was definitely the right decision for me. The right decision for my family. And I think the other piece is that it's always there. So I can always go back to it. If after this time away, I feel like, okay, I'm good again. I'm ready. I'm ready to dive back in. Because it is a passion. And it's my craft. And it's what I love. But you know, there were just too many factors that were making it not so fun anymore. So here I am.
Yeah, I really love what you said about acknowledging that you could go back. I think that's one thing that some teachers when they leave, or administrators, they know that that's really the end for them. That they're moving into something new, whether it's a different career, something similar but different. And I'm was very much like you like I thought, I'm leaving the classroom, resigning. But I know that that door is still there. And I think it's really good for others to know that it doesn't mean forever, but you have to do what's best for yourself. And I think we need to talk about this more, about sometimes it's just too much for someone to keep going the way that they're going. And they have to take care of themselves. Teachers, JoDee says it a lot, we give and we give. And we're very kind of selfless in that way a lot of the time. But we have to take care of number one in order to be able to support all of those things.
Even though you are stepping away. What you've done and contributed to the classroom to your students, to education is still happening. Your contribution is still living and breathing through the students that you have impacted. So even though like you're physically not there at the moment, that's how you see the impact and the trajectory of a child's academic career is through what they do with their life. You know, and that's always very rewarding. But in the end, we know that the greatest reward are those students who are taking what they learned and making a difference in their own lives.
Yeah, absolutely. And back to what you said, Ali, like, you can't pour from an empty cup, right? And so, yeah, the pandemic, I mean, turn things upside down. But even prior to that, it was starting to really drain. And so teachers are expected to come in. And I used to tell my kids that, at the time it was Miss I can like my patience tank is here, my the patience tank is here. Because I had fifth graders at the time. And it's just, you know, you're expected to be on and you're expected to be patient, and be understanding and not getting power struggles. And you do that, but then at the end of the day, you're just done. You're just exhausted. And I think you had talked about, you know, problem solving, and making decisions all day that by the time you get home, it's like, I don't really want to have to make a decision about what to eat for dinner, or what you wear to work tomorrow or anything like that. It's just, it takes a lot out of you. It's extremely rewarding, but it does take a lot out of you.
You hit the nail on the head. That really resonates with me. And what you've expressed is concern about what districts expect from teachers and administrators, and the reality of what is achievable. Like how long can someone live like that, right? And function at that level? So I'm wondering if you can tell us a little bit about how you got here today? And your choice to walk away?
Yeah, absolutely. So I mean, I knew very early on, I have a much younger sibling. She's 13 years younger than me. So I knew very early on that I wanted to do something with kids, especially teaching. I had a really great teacher in fourth grade, who just, you know.. we all have that story of that person who just kind of made that click for us. So I went to college, and I interned in the county that I worked in for 12 years after that. And at that time, when I was applying for jobs, the teaching jobs were few and far between. There was a point in time where, you know, like it was a hot commodity to get a teaching job. And I went on one interview, I send a million emails out and I got that job. I was thrilled. And I stayed at that school for five years. I taught third grade. And then, you know, as I started to move on, I got my master's degree in School Improvement Leadership from Goucher College. And as I moved forward, there was like this itch in me like I wanted to do more. I loved the impact that I had, you know, with my little people in my, you know, I had, I think, maybe 28 to 30 students in third grade. But I wanted to do more. And I was, you know, I had the opportunity to go to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference. I came back and I got to do PD and, and model things for other teachers. And I was like, wow, that's really where my passion is. So I decided after those five years that I was going to go pursue a possible resource role at then another school. So I went to another school, and they had a fifth grade student, who had been through a lot, a lot of trauma. And they said, you know, what, I think we need you to teach fifth grade. We need you to be this child's teacher. And so I said, okay, I'll do it. And so that I see that that school for three years as a fifth grade teacher, and then kind of shifted into a part time Math Resource job. But then I still had that itch of like, I'm not making the professional development impact that I want to be making. And so then I got hired into the central office to work for the math department. And I was going to go into schools and model and co-plan and co-teach with teachers, do kind of like a residency model. And I was really excited about it. In the meantime, I had, you know, gotten into this system, principal pool, because I thought that's something I had wanted to do. And then I got hired as an assistant principal. It was later that I got hired, and I started my first day of assistant principalship. The day the school opened, the day the kids walked through the door. And that was 2019-2020. And we all know what happened in March of 2020. And so it's been a wild ride for the last three years as an assistant principal. So, you know, I'm at the point where it's time for a little bit of a change. And I just, I feel like I've gotten so much perspective from being the assistant principal to see, you know, when I was a teacher, maybe questioning things like, oh my goodness, no wonder they made this decision. You know, I can see why an administrator would feel the need to make that decision or push that point. And just the pressure that comes down from the top to get teachers to perform.
And did you find that sometimes the expectations for teachers were stretching them a bit? Or the expectations of you being an assistant principal? What was it that kind of was the last straw of the expectations versus reality?
For me personally, in the assistant principal role, it was the fact that I was hired to be an instructional leader, but I was not doing what instructional leadership. I was that teacher. I was the school testing coordinator. I was coordinating things for transportation. I was working with our social emotional learning teacher and students who were having crisis. And once we came back from the pandemic to school, there was a lot of crisis calls for our little friends with big emotions that just really don't know what to do with them. And so the thing that I love, that I've been chasing for so long this professional development and working with teachers was just not happening. And so not to any fault of the school that I was at, we were just in a position where it was kind of like all hands on deck, and let's keep the ship afloat. And so if that means you have to clean cafeteria tables, or if that means you have to drive kids home, because their bus didn't show up, then that's what you have to do. And, you know, at this point in my life, I'm married. And you know, we want to have a family. And I can't imagine giving what I give at the schoolhouse, and then coming home and trying to take care of a family. And so it's not fair to those students and his teachers, for me to give any less, you know, it's what they deserve. And so I can't do both. And so I made a decision. And luckily, my husband is very supportive, you know, and has been my biggest cheerleader on this journey. So made the change.
Well, congratulations, I'm so happy to hear that your husband was your cheerleader, and is there for you. And that you were able to have those conversations, because they're really difficult to have. I think what really strikes me the most is that I don't think most of our country understands the state of education. I don't think they understand the pressure on teachers, on administrators. And so it's hard because a normal parent just really can't even fathom what you described in a typical day.
And there's a lot of misconceptions about what an assistant principal is. And there have actually been many times in my career, and even in my own child's life, where my child thinks the assistant principal is the principal, because they're visible. They're filling in all the gaps. They're just a lot more visible. And so the assistant principal, beyond administrative type of responsibilities, like you said, are filling in for these other responsibilities, such as standardized testing, filling in where, where we need buses, making all of these kind of last minute decisions. And one, that's a high quality skill that you have to be able to react in those high pressure situations. But that is a misconception about what is an assistant principal? What is their job? You wear so many hats. And I'm glad you're talking about it, to bring to light, what actually an assistant principal might be doing, other than those typical admin responsibilities.
Oh, yeah, I mean, even my principal is, you know, she's covering classes. She's cleaning cafeteria tables. Like, you have to model it's exactly what we say for students, right? You have to model what you expect. And so, you know, from our staff, from our students, and you've got to do it with a smile on your face. And you've got to be that strong rock for when people come to you. Because, you know, in your classroom, your kids are coming to you and they're upset, and they're emotional. But in the administrative role, you have parents, you have community members, you have students, you have teachers, you have other kinds of staff. And it's a lot. It's a lot to kind of manage. And the amount of problems that you're solving, and decisions that you're making in a day is just outrageous.
Sounds to me, like, the expectations are just not realistic right now for everybody working in a school, which pushed you in this direction. But what I heard JoDee say, and you say, is that you have worn all of these hats. You have the teacher brain for so many years of experience. And I really see the value in what you could bring to your next position as having been in a leadership role during the pandemic, nonetheless. So I'm curious, what do you think might be next for you?
Well, I have to credit you all, for helping me realize that there are so many things that I can look into. And I think you were talking about resumes like rewording the things that would be like kind of your educational lingo into okay, this is like resume lingo for anyone across the spectrum. That professional development bug is still like... bear with me. So I'm looking a lot into, you know, training specialists, educational specialists, those types of things. And even then, you know, I'm looking on LinkedIn all the time, but these larger corporations that need people to come in and like create these trainings and train their, train their new staff or train people who are already there on new systems. And I love learning new things. I love working with people. So you know, I think whatever it is that I do has to have some type of teaching aspect to it and working with people. And one of my greatest takeaways from teaching is just like building those relationships. So whatever it is that I do, you know, those are all aspects of the job that I would need to kind of hit. So yeah, and I'm just kind of in this place of taking time to really look at what it is that I really want to do, and kind of being a little picky about that. So that, so that I can be happy and fulfilled in my role.
Yeah, JoDee, you had a similar experience that you shared about being very mindful of what you went into next, when you left teaching. And I think that's an excellent way to approach it.
Yeah, it sounds like you have a solid vision. And you are able to kind of tune in to what you enjoy and what fills your bucket. A lot of times that's still working with people and still having that educational approach to whatever it might be. Because you're right. And corporations and nonprofits, there are opportunities to train people, and to educate others. And I'm excited to see what's next for you. And I hope we can continue to support you along the way. But I really do think that no matter where you land, you will be so great at what you do. So we wish you the best of luck, and can't wait to see how things unfold for you in the coming months.
Yeah, thank you so much. Stay tuned, you know, we'll see, we'll see what happens next.
And we do have our apply Thursday on social media. So I'll be sure to look for trainer jobs and share those out because I think they're very applicable to educators. My sister is actually a trainer. A lot of what I do in my job now is training related. And I think you would be a great candidate for a role like that.
Thank you. I appreciate it. And I appreciate you like just taking the time to speak with me and just keep doing what you're doing because it's helping a lot of people.
If you're interested in connecting with Alicia, you can connect with her on LinkedIn under Alicia Hess or Instagram, A E HESS 6 and we'll also put that in our posts.
If you liked The Great Teacher Resignation, give us a five star rating and follow us on Instagram, Apple Oodcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, and Audible. This episode was written and recorded by me Alexandra Simon and my co-host JoDee Scissors. Produced by JoDee Scissors. Original Music, Emoji by Tubebacker special thanks to our sponsor, paper planes Ed