My Identity

For too long, I have identified myself as an educator.

Of course I paid lip service to the fact that I am also a wife and mother, and that my family always came before my career.

But that was a lie. Mostly to myself.

Words and actions are not equal. It doesn’t matter what you say is most important if your actions don’t reflect it.

And I get it… as educators, we often must LIVE our careers. We take home with us the worries over those kids who need us so much. We must constantly think about how we can help each and every child in our classrooms to move forward in their learning. We tend to love these children as if they were our own (because they kind of are).

This is what has taken me nearly 20 years in education to discover: if I am not my best self in every OTHER aspect of my life, I can’t be the best teacher I can be within the classroom. No matter how much I concentrate on my career… if I’m suffering somewhere else, it shows in the classroom too.

A speaker came to our school a couple of weeks ago to talk to the kids about identity. He said something that has stuck with me every single day since:
“If I am what I do, then I must always do more to be more.” When is it enough?


My perspective before was: If I’m going to be a good teacher, I need to learn more about teaching, connect with other teachers, blog and tweet constantly to reflect and learn, attend edcamps and conferences, present at conferences, keep my name “out there” so I get invited to speak at more conferences, focus on becoming a featured speaker at conferences, reach for that pinnacle of speaking at conferences- the keynote, start writing a book…

Pretty soon, this was all I was doing. Doing more to be more. (Was it always more about becoming a good classroom teacher? Or more about becoming Super Educator?)

And all along, I was growing more and more dissatisfied. My kids grew up somewhere along the way. My relationship with my husband (who, by the way, was extremely supportive of all of it) suffered. I didn’t have a lot of local friends.

Please don’t take this as criticism if your life looks like what I described above. That’s not my intent. This is about me and what hasn’t been working for me.

So… I backed off. A lot. Without quitting any of it, I reduced everything professional, and kicked up everything personal. I’m working way harder at being Michelle than michellek107 or the blogger behind the posts here.

I’ve already written posts about balance between personal and professional life, but I don’t think the balance can be what I thought it should be. 50/50 is rough for me, because the educator part of me is selfish and needy. And because the personal side always gives in.

In addition to the “do more to be more” quote rolling around in my head, I’ve also been thinking about the “oxygen mask on planes” analogy. If I don’t put my mask on first, I’m no good to anyone when the oxygen in the air runs out.

My oxygen ran out.

So, this is what you’ll probably see from me for now…

    A lot of tweets from my classroom (@TeamBaldwin)

    More personal photos, but fewer posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

    Fewer face to face sightings at conferences

    And most importantly, a happier human being who happens to be an educator.

So, if you ask me to introduce myself, I’ll tell you I’m Michelle. I’m married to Jon who is my favorite person on the entire planet. We have four great kids: Bailey, Jon, Amanda, and Carlye. (The rest of my family is awesome, too… but I’m not listing them now, because that will become a new blog post.)

We have two dogs, Diego and Paco, and they’re pretty spoiled and loved.

I love to sing, play piano and ukulele, read, go to movies, golf, and spend time outside… especially in the mountains.

Oh, and I teach, too. I love teaching so much… but that’s not all there is to me.

17 thoughts on “My Identity

  1. Good for you Michelle! I don’t know if THIS is the post you and I ‘talked’ about a while back, but I’m glad you wrote this. Teachers are such a giving group, but it’s not always easy to find the line. It feels great to be helpful and valued, but finding a balance is hard. That balance always feels like a battle to me. Always has. I can’t even tell you the last time I plugged in my guitar. I’m glad you’ve identified yours and you’re adjusting. Proud for you.

    It’s nice to meet you 🙂

  2. Dear Michelle,
    Your post really resonated with me. I’m so glad to read I’m not alone in thinking that enough is enough. Thank you for writing this post and sharing your inner thoughts. It helps!

  3. Jana Scott Lindsay


    While I know you wrote this post for you, I can’t help but feel you were also writing it for me:)

    I too have been talking, & lamenting really, about finding balance & feeling a little more like myself… and then in the same breath, continue to stretch myself beyond thin in trying to be all that I felt I needed to be.

    I have had the opportunity to connect with many educators well into their career, & each has left me with something particularly sage to wrestle with & and chew on. But the consistent piece has always been how do you want to be remembered & by who.

    The long and the short of it is that I don’t want to feel regret when it came to my family and the time we had together. Ultimately finding balance for me was to walk away a little more consistently to unplug & recharge… and I am getting better at it each and every day.

    Thank you for sharing… but more especially, thank you for your honesty.

    I hope that this can also be the beginning of a movement… not only for teachers, but for everyone to fins balance, and their best selves in the process.

    Still hoping we will get our face to face meetup soon… Canada, and most especially Saskatoon, would love for you to come and visit.

  4. Michelle, I appreciate you sharing your truth. One of the most admirable traits that I find in educators is balance. Finding balance in all that we do. As a colleague once asked me, “Why would I want someone else raising my kids?” My whistle and coaching shorts are in a storage bin awaiting another day. I wrote about the Conundrum of Connectedness a few months ago, a similar theme; Thanks again, Bob

  5. For the record, you’re my favorite person too. Sorry, all you blogosphere folks. She’s all mine. You can borrow her occasionally, though! 🙂

  6. Akevy Greenblatt

    Thank you for sharing and being so honest. I think transparency is so important. I think that you have captured what a lot of us feel myself included.

    Thank you for sharing and being so honest

  7. Thank you for sharing this piece, Michelle. I have had a similar post brewing in my head for awhile, and have really had to pull back and be more present in my day to day face to face life.
    I love your candor and I think you’re pretty darn inspiring when you share 🙂
    Hope to see you one day soon!

  8. Michelle,

    Thank you for sharing your personal journey and dilemma. I too have been struggling with this and I too, have taken a step away from social media (twitter, facebook, and blogging). Because I wanted to invest in the students and teachers I was serving and spend time with my family as well.

    I am at peace with my decision. I am comfortable with being who I am and focusing on what I feel is important.

    I do hope we are able to connect somewhere sometime. And if we don’t, it will be ok.

  9. Im proud of you.

  10. I love you so much. This made me smile. Sad I won’t be seeing you face to face as much but I am proud of you.

  11. This is such a timely post for me and just what I needed to encourage me to stand back and regroup. After 30+ years in teaching I have found I constantly compare myself to others and worry I am not accomplishing everything. Time to stop and smell the roses and be ‘me’ for awhile with no other title than ME!

  12. Hey Michelle,

    Thank you for sharing this. You articulate a dilemma that I also experienced. I backed off a while back (gosh, it may be a couple of years ago now) and have really focused on the local aspect of my impact. I didn’t know how to articulate that and worried that it would sound selfish. You nailed it though. Thanks for that.


  13. My professor at the faculty of Ed always said, our students do not need a teacher who was up until midnight planning the perfect lesson. Our students need a teacher who has been to the ballet, a show or something else. Teachers need to have experiences to share and show they are people. It’s hard, but our profession can not define who we are. I too have been tweeting less, blogging less and being more available for my family who needs me.

  14. Michelle,

    Thanks for posting this. I think many of us struggle with balance often.
    Your candor is much appreciated.
    Stay well, my friend.


  15. Michelle,
    Nothing in this life is more important than your family. I did this same thing about three years ago (minus the blog post). You may occassionally long for those times of leading and belonging to that group but you will never regret making your family #1. Take care of yourself and your family. Be grateful every day that they are yours.

  16. A great post, and a wonderful realization. The public, and Hollywood, seem to thrive on the image of a teacher who gives up everything for their students and career (think Jaime Escalante or Erin Gruwell), but if we are about teaching our students balance we must first model it ourselves. It can be a difficult road to travel as colleagues around you (and sometimes administrators) expect more, but I wish you the best of luck.

  17. Michelle, great thoughts. Many of your thoughts are similar to some I have, thank you for sharing. The sentence that I really relate to is ” I didn’t have a lot of local friends.” That’s very true for me and something I need to do something about.

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