This week Ali and JoDee are talking with Ashley Bell, a former school counselor and equity coach who, after a few career shifts, is now a restorative justice instructional specialist. Together, they will dive into dealing with imposter syndrome, why teachers deserve a seat at the big table, and leaning on your support system while looking for new educational roles.
Connect with Ashley:
Connect with Ali and JoDee:
Teacher Shift LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/teacher-shift
Ali’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alisimon/
JoDee’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jodeescissors/
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.
Today, our guest is Ashley Bell. Ashley formerly served as a teacher, equity coach, school counselor, and well-being specialist. Then she decided to stop making life fit into work and start making work fit into life. Ashley landed a role as a restorative justice instructional specialist, allowing her to pursue her passion for serving communities through education, while still providing space and time to fill her own cup. Ashley, thanks for being here today.
Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Ashley, we've been dying to speak with you for weeks now. So we're so glad you're here, I just wanted to jump off the episode was something that you shared with us and how through your journey of career mobility, you've learned the importance of self care. And then it's never too late to go after what you want, and that you don't need outside validation. And what really struck me with what you shared with us is that, you know now that you deserve a seat at bigger tables, and I think that that's a really key message that we're trying to send to all of our listeners.
I think that when you're talking about the concept of imposter syndrome, a lot of us struggle with this, as we're making different career shifts. So we deal with self doubt, JoDee you've spoken about this in prior episodes, we struggle with validation. And Ashley, you've already worn many different hats and had different roles in education. You're a former counselor, and even though you're trained in guidance, you yourself have found yourself needing guidance. So we're wondering, what has your experience been with imposter syndrome?
So I think that in the field of education, it's really interesting, I always share with people that and they're surprised to know how much power our supervisors aka in a school house, our principals have over the trajectory of our career. And that it is required that we get certain recommendations from certain supervisors, current and most recent, in order to even begin to have an opportunity to interview for positions. And so I've always found that really interesting. It's such a process. And I think that right there sets the tone for, I as the individual, can't decide or even have power over what I'm ready to do. I have to have someone else kind of cosign that for me. And so I feel like early on in my career, when I was a teacher, when I was transitioning to become a school counselor, I felt like for that, a vast majority of people, my supervisors included, felt like I was ready and right in line with what I was supposed to be doing. And I think that once I decided that I was ready to make impact in a different way. And I felt like a lot of my work was around coaching and supporting the adults that work with children to reach even more children. That's when I kind of started to get some resistance around what I was ready for. And so getting that pushback initially, I think, kind of started me down that slippery slope of having imposter syndrome.
Yeah, so basically feeling like you thought you were ready to take on bigger and better things that maybe not better but bigger things for sure. And being told, Well, we don't think you're ready. But then maybe there was a concrete rationale, or just made you question why. Like, why are you doing this perhaps? And what should you be doing? So it made you feel like a little bit of an imposter in your idea of what you wanted to do next, but that didn't stop you. And that's why we're so glad to have you on today to really share your story. So can you tell us a little bit more about the path from being a guidance counselor where you went next after dealing with that?
So I think that one of my personal kind of philosophies, when it comes to being an educator, is that I don't believe that anyone should be in the field of education unless there is true, like intrinsic motivation and passion. And I think that because being an educator is so challenging, and so taxing physically, mentally and emotionally. I think that it is only natural and fair to expect that sometimes people start to become jaded, disconnected, less enthusiastic about the work and starting to question if this is really for them. And I think that the way that the education world is framed, I think sometimes we feel shunned. When we feel that way, I think that we feel a lot of pressure to be loyal to the students we serve, to the communities we serve. And so a lot of times we forget about ourselves. As naturally educators do we put everything and everyone else before ourselves because we feel like morally wrong almost for being like, I don't think this is for me anymore. And for me, I felt like whenever I started to get that inkling in a current position, it was time to, to do something else. And so I know for my personal kind of way, I need to feel really passionate. I need to feel really challenged. Things need to be fresh for me to really put my best foot forward. And so for me, personally, I would say like every two to three years, I was kind of ready to take on something else, or take what I learned in my current position to the next level. And that's kind of what propelled me to keep going. And so after serving as a school counselor, and kind of working with adults in a different way than I had in the past, I decided, I think I want to do something else. And so I kind of went back and forth with working in central office, and supporting like schools as a whole and other adults and becoming an administrator. And so this was kind of like a bumpy time for me. I was like, all in for becoming an administrator. I wanted to kind of become more of a prominent leader in a school building before I went the central office route. And so I went back to school, and I got the credentials that I needed, and I went after it. And then I didn't get into the pool when I applied to become an administrator. And that was really challenging for me. And I felt like a step back. I felt like, you know, so far in my career, it was like, get the credentials, go after it, get it, get the credentials go after get it. And then finally, it was like this huge stop sign. And then that was compacted with COVID. And so everything kind of like fell apart for me a little bit. And I really started to question, what do I want to do. And I even started to lose my passion a little bit for even being an educator, which was really like hurtful to me because that's all I've ever known myself to be even before I even went to college, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. So it was really like this questioning of my identity and me realizing I really needed to spend some time relearning what I'm passionate about, like, what I felt like my life's mission is, and how I can tie that to some line of work.
I think that that's the battle a lot of people have is finding their purpose, their identity. But also the other side of imposter syndrome, thinking that if you go somewhere else, or you do something else, you feel like a fraud. Like you're not supposed to be there. And so I had that same feeling of self discovery. Who am I? What am I? But then thinking, am I even deserving to be there? Should I be in the seat? Where is the seat? Can I fill this seat? Like, truly feel it and not feel like, you know, I'm not bringing a breadth of knowledge to the table. And so when I looked at those tables, I saw the mentors and leaders that guided me, and I wondered, Am I someone that can be that person? Can I guide others? Can I lead others? And one thing that really helped me with the imposter syndrome and feeling like a fraud was just discovering the facts about myself? Who am I? What makes me happy as a person? What makes me motivated? But then also finding the facts about the jobs that I wanted. Can I fill that position? And the answer without even saying this, like egotistically, was like, Yes, I can do it, you know? And now when I'm at the table, I see people look at me. Because usually in the rooms I'm in, I'm the educational expert. And they look at me for those questions and those answers and those solutions, and expect me to provide an educators response to those issues. And so it did take me a while to sit back and say, I need to figure out who I am and I need to know the facts to overcome that imposter syndrome.
Yeah, and thinking about what you shared also Ashley. The field of education is very unique.For all the players that you mentioned in your story, you know, you started off being a teacher, and then you were... you moved into school counseling, and then the people who have to co-sign off for you to move up. I mean, these are all people with degrees in education. And so we all come from like a similar education background. We're all kind of just like the same pieces of a puzzle where we're looking to each other for validation. Where JoDee's explanation of being the only educator in the room is a little bit different. And I think, you know, what I really heard was, my people, the people who I was looking up to, said, I wasn't ready. And I think it's a little bit harder to stomach like, personally, if someone says you're not ready, and the thing that you've always known, then trying something new. It's like almost like a different level of impostor syndrome, kind of concern and almost like, what am I going to do now. And what I love about your story is that you didn't actually end up following that typical path that most teachers do. So like I myself, that was my plan initially, was actually to be a teacher. And then a few years into it, I was like, I'm going to get my degree in Educational Leadership, and I'm going to become an administrator. And then I married someone in the military and started moving every two years, and that was never going to happen. So you know, I had to also think outside of the box. And I also want teachers to know that that's not the only path. You don't have to go from a teacher to something higher up in the building, to then being an administrator, to then go into the central office, like there are other roles, and there are other places for former teachers to go within the educational system that will welcome you with open arms. I hope. And you know, in your experience, I'm excited to hear from you. And where we can bring so much value, and it doesn't have to be on that traditional trajectory or path. So can you tell us a little bit about how you found that why again, and how you ended up in the current role that you're serving right now?
Absolutely. Like so many things that you were saying? I'm like, yep, yep, yep. I think another elephant in the room when we talk about education is money, right? And so when I've talked to a lot of my colleagues about what their motive for pursuing administration, or a central office role, or whatever it might be, it's money. It's the countless hours that they're putting in to being a teacher. And then on top of that, having to work second and third jobs to make ends meat, and how they just cannot keep up with the demand. And they're like, you know, what, if I'm going to be working this many hours, I might as well be doing it and making more money. And so I'm going to pursue kind of these other paths, which I think is like a whole nother struggle as an educator as well. Sometimes just feeling like, the juice isn't worth the squeeze a little bit. And so for me, I felt like, I'm like, What do I need, like just working from home? Obviously, during COVID, I think for many people really opened up my eyes, to how much time I was spending working, and how little time I was spending on me. And how, especially as an educator, we pour and pour, and pour and pour all day, and there is literally little to no time to pour into ourselves. And yet, we have to keep giving. And it can be really detrimental when you're in that space, but you're working with impressionable children who are looking up to you. And so I think that, in theory, we talk a lot about like staff well being and how, you know, we have to pour into ourselves support into our students. But realistically, how is that space created for us? And so when I was still working from home, I was determined to find a role that allowed me to stay true to my passions, which I've always known has been to serve communities, particularly communities of color, or economically disadvantaged communities through education. I know that that's what I'm supposed to do. But I started to open up my mind to how can I still feel like I'm doing that in a way that doesn't take everything I have away from me. And so I kind of started looking at some different options. I knew one immediate thing was to kind of move on from the current position that I took on. I left my former role as a school counselor. I knew it was time to do something different. And I tried to move from an elementary position to high school and it was totally different. And I just felt like it wasn't fulfilling for me. And I wasn't given the same leadership opportunities that I was craving. And so funny enough, I went back to my former school in a new role, which I believe really opened up my eyes to how in line who I am, my strengths, my passions, my talents are with my current role, which is being an instructional specialist. So coaching adults, working with schools, and it was like, wow, I can have even more impact in this role because I'm working with so many more schools than I would have as being an administrator anyway, and because I'm not school based. There's some flexibility there. And then you know, it is considered a promotion. And so because it's 12 months, there's more money there. So it was kind of like check, check, check. And so I was thinking, Okay, this is something that I'm really going to explore. I think this is like the next step. And I was gonna give it, you know, like a year or two in my position as a well being specialists back at my former school before pursuing that, because as I kind of mentioned earlier, this whole loyalty piece. Basically, my former supervisor, like took me back. She, like made this amazing opportunity for me to really operate in like my gifts and strengths. How can I leave after a year? But then at the same time, I'm like, Ashley, you're doing it again? Like, what about you? And so this position, restorative justice instructional specialists came up, and a colleague of mine sent it to me, and she's like, you have to apply to this. And I'm thinking, I'm not gonna get this. Like, I've been down this path before. I just don't know. But I'm like, What do I have to lose? And so I applied. I, like studied for my interview, like I was taking the LSAT. And I felt like I killed it. But still that imposter syndrome was creeping in and I'm like, Did I kill it? Like, I don't know. And then, a couple of weeks later, it was like, I was offered the position. And I just, I couldn't believe it. I really couldn't. And it has just been like life changing.
So listeners hear Ashley story, she didn't give up, she kept going. Just because you don't get something that you really want doesn't mean that there's not actually something better out there for you. This sounds like it fits so well, with really what you wanted to do holistically. You want to be able to help people. But you also want to be able to take care of yourself. And I mean, I'm friends with people who are administrators and I value all the time they put into it. But it is also a cup that does not have a lot of room to pour anything else into.
And kudos for sticking to what you wanted, you didn't feel like you were locked down to the other people that had given you opportunities that you stuck with what you truly, truly wanted.
Yeah, I think I wrote that down loyalty. That is something that a lot of us really struggle with, right? When we have employers, or we have colleagues, or a school that is very supportive of us, we feel that sense of loyalty to them. So whether you have perhaps, like been ill, or you've lost a loved one and your your colleagues, or your school, your employer were so understanding whether you've left and then come back. There's just so many scenarios where I feel like this sense of loyalty, it's well earned in a sense. But like, Yes, I'm going to do a great job for you. I'm going to show up every day. I'm gonna do my job. But I think after that point, you have to respect your own wants and needs to because the truth of the matter is, your job is already filled at your old school. I'm sure. Like, as soon as you put in your notice, they're looking for someone new. They're not sitting around saying, oh, man, like, you know, we're just gonna have to see maybe she'll come back like, no, it's a system. That's what work is like. And so there's lots of things out there. But yes, like when you leave, or when something happens, and you leave your position, they will fill it. And there are lots of people who still do want to go into education. I know there's a lot of stuff going on right now. But trying to fill roles, but a role like that, for sure. So I guess I struggled with loyalty too. And I don't know JoDee, if you struggle with that. But it's a really fine line about thinking about wanting to do a great job for your employer. That's the best type of loyalty, I think being a productive employee, giving it your all, but also understanding that when it's time for you to move on, I hope that they will respect that. And as long as I give the professional courtesy of a minimum of two weeks notice, then that should be acceptable and that I've still been a very loyal employee.
And those people that you have been loyal to, that you've worked with, you'll know who they are months down the road when you've transitioned. You know, I've many years outside of transitioning from my career as a fourth grade immersion teacher. And I have relationships with people that I was worried to tell. I was scared to tell. And I still have relationships with and I think that just goes to the deepness of those relationships and the need and the want to help each other grow. And so I think that's something that our listeners should also know is that those relationships that you're worried about, the ones that will stick with you, those were the true relationships from the beginning.
Absolutely. I totally agree. And I also think that the education world is very different from like other career paths and occupations. And for me, sometimes I needed to gain some more well rounded perspective and talking to non educators also pushed me a lot too. Just saying like, Ashley, like you fulfilled your your duty for the school year, your contract like it's okay people move on people move up, you know, you're trying to progress, you're trying to take better care of you. How can you feel, you know, at fault for that? And how like in the corporate world, for example, it's like I have friends that are, I mean, every year, they're they're looking for new positions to grow, or progress or be more aligned with who they are, what they feel passionate about. And it's not a second thought to them. But as educators, we just feel like we're not allowed to do that. We have to pay our dues and put in our years and everything has to be just right at the right time, in order for us to do what we feel is best for us. And I think that I've grown a lot personally, in regard to that, and have finally committed to putting myself first because that's the only way that I can serve anyone else best.
Yes, I completely agree. And that's something JoDee and I have talked a little bit about before in the podcast is that it's hard when you're an educator to get advice about transitioning perhaps into roles outside of the school house, maybe even district level roles, because most of your colleagues, they're teachers when you're a teacher, and so they're in maybe not thinking about that, or they've never gone through that process themselves. So sounds like you sought counsel outside of your school and even outside of education. And really to close this out for today. Can you tell us a little bit about that support team and who you leaned on when you were looking for exploring new roles?
I feel like it's really important to be transparent. So I felt like as soon as I was starting to get that inkling that I wanted to go after something new, I had to share that with my current supervisor who I also consider a mentor and who I attribute a lot of my professional growth to. I felt like I had to kind of like, take that weight off of my shoulders so that I could really be all in. And so really just having a candid conversation like we're having today about where I am and why I feel like this is something that I need to do. And not that I needed her permission, and that this was something that I was going to do, but that I wanted to be, you know, courteous and considerate, and I really... her support was important to me. And so I felt like that was important. And then also talking to other colleagues that had transitioned into other careers or out of the school house was also important because I felt like they had a more well rounded and broad perspective than to your point, kind of those educators that are totally okay with, you know, remaining school based or being a teacher or, or just staying in a current role for a long time. And I think that that's beautiful. And we need that too. And then again, just kind of seeking people who are just in more of like the corporate world. So my parents, my friends. Really just talking to them, and really getting that constant reinforcement that this is okay. It is okay to go after something different, something new. And I think that the great thing for me is that there's a lot of challenges when you want to transition out of education, because you feel like your training is so specific to being an educator. And you wonder if there's like ever a way out. And so it really felt good for me to know that there are actually positions within, you know, public school districts that allow that flexibility. And that can really kind of meet the new and ever changing needs that I think the workforce is having post kind of that virtual world that we were all living in for that past couple of years.
We are hardwired to think that the path for us is linear. It's just the way that we were constructed from the time that we started our studies to be a teacher, right? So you definitely veered off the path, but in a good way to show us that it's not totally linear. And then you utilize not only your people within the house that you work, but outside of it as well. So thank you for sharing that with us.
And this has just been such a lovely and honestly uplifting conversation about what career progression can look like in education. And I want our listeners to know that if they want to connect with Ashley Bell, they can find her on LinkedIn or on Instagram at LLEB dot A L L E B. Thank you again, Ashley for your time today.
Thank you for having me.
If you liked The Great Teacher Resignation, give us a five star rating and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music and Audible. Today's episode was written and recorded by me Alexandra Simon and my co-host JoDee Scissors. Executive produced by Teacher Brain. Produced and edited by Emily Porter. Original Music: Emoji by Tubebackr. Special thanks to our sponsor Paper Planes, Ed.