It was my calling. I was in second grade when I knew I would be a teacher.
I loved teaching, it was fulfilling. I taught with joy and pride. I taught over 1500 kids in middle through high school for about a decade. I went to grad school for education, because you are supposed to. I learned to articulate rather than defend what I was doing in my classroom. Grad school cemented the idea that I had to articulate and defend my profession. I grew tired of defending the art of teaching and the growth of my students, but I kept on. To re-ignite my passion for education, I moved on to a new position in a new school, to work with student teachers from the local college. I thought it would be invigorating to watch the birth of the next batch of teachers. Wrong.
Sadly, so many aspiring teachers are just lost and looking for a last ditch profession. I was searching for those with a calling and did not find them. It was depressing. I could not in good conscience, with my sense of duty allow many of these people to be in classrooms. I spoke out, but I had no power and I was overruled and ignored. In my frustration and immaturity I quit.
The school year started, and I missed it. I missed kids. I missed light-bulb moments that often had nothing to do with what I was supposed to be teaching. My sense of duty and my calling were still there. So, to fill that last bit of need, I was a substitute teacher.
That year, I saw horrible teachers with amazing students. I saw kids who craved more than we could ever give them. Somehow, I thought becoming an administrator would allow me to control quality of teaching for students, make teachers better, and get rid of the ones who needed to move on. My calling overpowered my disappointment, so I completed grad school again, to make a difference, and hustled for a gig in a school.
I was a Dean for discipline in the hood for a few years. I was a teacher coach for a school that sat across from housing projects they filmed an episode of Gangland in. I was eventually an assistant principal in the city. I gave my life to administration for 7 years, 7 long years.
What I learned:
I left out the magic moments. There are so many I was blessed with, without the magic moments nobody could continue in the job of public education. Nobody. Without the smiles from kids, the ah-has and sincere thanks from parents we could not do it at all. But this is about defecting, not digging in my heels to make it work.
It was killing me, I was torn. I still felt that calling. But, I couldn’t continue.
I drank a lot of mediocre wine.
I gained weight.
I listened to loud music and screamed in my car in the staff parking lot.
Hindsight is a bitch, and now I see that I sacrificed happiness in my attempt to make it work. I was miserable and knew I couldn’t continue, but didn’t have the courage to act. I was wearing what my mom called “golden handcuffs”. The salary was amazing, I was getting paid a ton of money. There are not too many jobs out there that pay what I was making, getting time off etc. The handcuffs were pretty, but I was still very much handcuffed to an untenable position in a failing institution.
The universe conspires to bring you what you need, even if you aren’t aware you need it. Truth, the universe knocked me upside the head with a cast iron frying pan, and followed up with a rolling pin of a southpaw… a solid one, two knockout.
I fought for kids. I fought for teachers. I fought for better. I fought. That world doesn’t want a fighter. I was told I wasn’t a good fit. I would be reassigned the following year to an unknown location. The painful truth is that I got fired.
Great observations (and good writing too)!