(This is a bit long, if I lose you, scroll to the bottom for the big announcement)
As I am sure you are well aware, I am wrapping up graduate school. Two weeks ago I defended my thesis. Last week I did the minor revisions and this Monday I officially submitted it (along with a $55 fee, jeez they get you at every corner) to the University. In between I began receiving call backs for interviews.
It was overwhelming. You see, not only was I preparing to defend, but I was at a crossroads with careers. I spent the 6.5 years before graduate school teaching high school. I went to graduate school full time because I was really burnt out teaching in a suburban school public school. I had always wanted to be a teacher in life and felt elated and filled with energy when I received my first job. I quickly became stretched thin, and cynical towards a system where I felt I was no longer an effective teacher in the classroom when I was teaching 5 preps (different classes I had to prepare for) and my kids were testing every two weeks.
Bureaucracy aside, I love school. Moreover, I love going to school. When it came time for a master’s, I decided to do it in an area that I found intriguing and exciting-and in something that would not be directly tied to education, like a master’s in education. I pursued a degree in environmental politics and policy. I loved studying this and I loved applying it, especially to my personal life.
However, when it came to getting a job in the environmental sector things were not what I thought they would be and I kept having this little niggling that I should be going back to the classroom. I sat in on some classes where students were struggling with poor teaching skills. I had a run in with a mentor who offered little support to me. It made me feel like my calling is still the classroom. I could and wanted to practice being an effective teacher. I wanted to once again mentor students in their formative years. I came across articles in education that convinced me that we need passionate teachers whose innovation will change the system.
So, I interviewed for teaching positions-4 to be exact (and I turned down 2 others after investigating the school and districts). But, my head still said, what about the environmental field? Well, for one, I only got one call back for an interview and it wasn’t a good fit for me, so I turned down a second interview. Even two days ago I had a professor ask about my new job in surprise saying “what about environmental policy?” Admittedly, I felt a little bit like a failure by not getting a job in my new field.
Then yesterday I walked into the community college classroom where I have been substituting for a teacher on maternity leave. And I fell into a trance. Both classes flew by. The students asked questions, offered outside information while I told stories, and wrote diagrams on the board. When they said they still didn’t understand I thought (on the fly) of a way to break it down even further and allow it to make sense to them. That sparked even more discussion and thought. The second class ended at 8:15 and I was glowing. As I erased the whiteboard I thought to myself “this is my thing. I’m good at this.” I had my moment and knew right then that I had made the right decision.
I wouldn’t consider myself a great or the best teacher, but that’s the beauty of it-there is room to grow and learn. I came home and stumbled across this video from a former teaching colleague. Again, I felt inspired. I started to think about how I could use this to start the new school year and inspire my own students.
So, my big announcement: I have accepted a teaching position at Helena High School in Helena, Montana and will be moving in 3-4 weeks to start this new/old adventure.
Have you ever found yourself at a crossroads with careers?
Any teachers out there had burnout moments? How did you deal with it?