Teaching is a Calling
Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher. I used to play school in my bedroom with my dolls and talk to them as if I were teaching and they were learning. That aside, never ever did I dream that I would have the impact and influence on students and teachers that I do through my blog, TpT stores (Hello Literacy and Hello Two Peas in a Pod), and professional development business, Hello Literacy, Inc. Teachers are natural givers. That’s just what we do, and we love it. Teachers give more from their own hearts and wallets than any other profession, and let’s face it… teaching is the most important job in the world.
I have been a teacher for 21 years. But, about 7 years ago, I stepped out of the classroom and into the role of Literacy Coach/Reading Interventionist/School Improvement Chair/RTI Coordinator at a brand new elementary school. Within a few months of developing our school’s educational values, principles, and foundations for student-centered, higher-level, research-based instruction, I would walk in and out of classrooms and down the halls and think, “If these walls and halls could talk! There’s some really good stuff happening in this building that really needs to be shared outside this building!” And the Hello Literacy blog was born.
Becoming a Teacherpreneur
I take the role of literacy blogger and TpT Teacher-Author very seriously. With the lack of funds for teacher training, I realize that for many teachers, schools, and districts around the country, they are getting ALL their literacy professional development through my blog… which is unfortunate and empowering at the same time.
I have the same level of seriousness when making products for Teachers Pay Teachers. I have two criteria when creating products: to make high-quality products that make kids think AND to make products that make teachers better teachers. I think these are pretty high standards, and although they may not get me into the Top 10 Sellers list, I’m proud of my product criteria. To me, it’s not important to be at the top of the heap, just that I’m in the heap and happy. If you’re not happy with what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, you shouldn’t do it.
And that brings me to the rest of my life… my family and my professional development business. If you are a TpT Seller with a family, then TpT is a family business, which means a lot of communication and balance. My family is my number 1 priority, and I always want them to know that in my words and in my actions. When my family gets home from school, I close the lid to my laptop and I don’t open it until they go to sleep or until the next day. Quality time with family is really important to me, and so is sleep.
I wake up early. I am very productive in the early morning. Social media friends and followers are also important to me. I post a lot of pictures that are a mix of personal and professional shots, because I want everyone to know that I’m a regular person just like them… trying to do a million things all the time and be everything to everybody. But I can’t do it all. So the things that matter less, don’t matter — and I don’t let it bother me. You’ve got to let some things go. Even Type A personalities like me have got to or you’re going to drive yourself insane (visualize me belting out Frozen’s Let It Go).
For example, my house is not clean (but it’s picked up so it has the deceptive illusion of being clean), I have piles of laundry, I bite my fingernails, we eat out too much, I’m addicted to Giant Chewy Sweet Tarts and wish I liked water, but I just don’t! Bottom line is, you have to do what works for you, your family, and your household… nobody has to live in your house but you and your family, so if you can live with it without regret, then it works!
When I’m not creating products or making fonts, I’m flying around the country providing staff development to schools and districts about all things literacy. In my humble opinion, being a Common Core nerd has definitely paid off for me. I know the ELA standards upside down and backwards, and I know what Common Core classrooms should look like and what they should sound like. I feel fortunate that schools and districts recognize my literacy knowledge and enthusiasm for 21st century skills, and hire me to train teachers on how to get all students communicating, collaborating, and creating because before we can expect students to be critical readers, we must first teach them how to be critical thinkers.
Jen is a K-12 Reading Specialist who lives in Raleigh, NC. She is a teacher with 21 years of classroom experience and is also a literacy consultant, intervention specialist, teacher trainer, staff developer, and curriculum designer. In addition to being a curriculum designer, she is also a font designer. If you’re interested in having Jen come to your school, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.