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Archive for January, 2016

Well, it’s official. After seven and a half years, including student teaching, subbing, actual full-time employment, and some major student loans that I will be paying off until I retire, I’m leaving the classroom. For good.

Am I bitter, angry, disillusioned? Eh, definitely not bitter or angry, and mostly not disillusioned. Well, disillusionment plays a part in my decision, but it’s not the main reason. There were a lot of factors that figured in to my decision and months of going back and forth. In the end, I decided to leave, mostly for my mental health and for my family’s well-being.

One thing I don’t like about my decision is that I’m leaving in the middle of the year. I know that sucks and most teachers I know wouldn’t do that without a really good reason, but here’s the thing: I feel like I have really good reasons, which I’ll get to momentarily. Will the students be upset? Some of them, I’m sure, for a little while. I have an email address for school that they will be able to use to stay in touch with me if they so choose and my friend, who just happens to be the classroom assistant (I can’t just call her my assistant; it sounds so clinical and she’s so much more than that), will be there for the rest of the year, so their world will not be shattered. In the end, I have to balance the students’ needs against mine and my family’s and this is a case where I feel I have to make a break.

You might be asking yourself what could be so bad that a fairly seasoned teacher would choose to leave in the middle of the year and that would be a fair question. Here are my thoughts

Let me get one thing straight to start: I love to work and to be useful. I hate being lazy and unproductive, lest my gentle readers get the impression that I desire to be a lady of leisure. Staying home all day without anything to do but clean the house or cook would make me insane. I do have a new job to go to, which I will touch on later. My depression, however, has been progressively getting worse during the working months. In the years that I have been teaching, I’ve noticed a major difference between my depression levels from September through June and June through the end of August, something that I had never felt before in any part of my working life, and I’ve been working since I was 15 years old.  During the past few school years that I have taught, I have felt like I made the wrong career choice, yet I was loathe to quit because I had invested so much money and time into this career.

The stressors that come with teaching, parent conflicts and student behavior are at the top of that list, seem to affect me in a huge way that I have not been able to overcome, no matter how much I try. I replay them in my head over and again in a frustrating loop. I have attempted to make peace with this in therapy, but to no avail. These are things that all teachers deal with and most teachers take in stride. While they’re not a pleasant part of the job, people like my husband are able to brush those inconveniences off and go on with their passion for teaching students, many for thirty years or more.

My mother-in-law was one such teacher, working well past standard retirement age for the sheer love of her job. When she eventually retired, she welcomed the break, but to this day remembers her teaching years with extreme fondness. Former students still stop her, no matter where she is, and catch her up on their lives. She was a fabulous teacher who touched a lot of lives. I am not that kind of teacher. In the past couple of years, I have dreaded the end of breaks, half-heartedly put together student projects, and felt my tolerance for even normal student behaviors dwindle. This is not fair to the students. They deserve to have an enthusiastic teacher who gets excited about new classroom ideas on Pinterest and has the patience for a pack of exuberant elementary students, not one who just tweaks an old project from the last year and loses her patience more quickly than she should.

I found myself losing interest in other things that I love, especially over this past year: writing, reading for pleasure, going out with friends. My social anxiety about going places has gotten worse. I’ve declined invitations for work parties and to be with people who I really love being with because I’m panicking in the anticipation of going out into situations where I am absolutely terrified that I will look and feel ridiculous. Mind you, it doesn’t usually end up that way, but that’s the stupid thing about anxiety, which tends to worsen with stress.

There will be some who really criticize me for not only leaving teaching, but leaving in January as opposed to finishing out the year. Those people can think what they want, but I have to do what’s best for me and my health right now. I have put this off for as long as I think I can.

Am I whining? No, I don’t think so. I think I’ve laid things out in a rational way. I’ve simply come to the realization that I am not cut out to be a classroom teacher. I also understand that any job will have its issues, but as a wise friend and neighbor so eloquently put it, I’m ready for a different set of problems. There are people who are fabulous teachers, who love their jobs because teaching is their passion. I am, regretfully, not one of them. I admire teachers like my husband, my mother-in-law, my Aunt-Mom, my sister-in-law, and several friends who are committed to being in the classroom. Lord knows our children need it. When I think about spending the next thirty years teaching, part of my soul wilts a little.

So if I won’t be teaching, what will I do all day? Well, I’m very pleased to say that I have accepted the job as full-time Office Administrator at my church. I am excited by the prospect of being a help to a place that has a special place in my heart and that I will be able to be a face for the church. I think the work will suit me well and I will have more time to work on my writing, rather than stressing about parents and students. It will be a new beginning for me and for my family. Hopefully, this change will give me some breathing room to work on myself while I still contribute financially to our family. I would love to be more present for my kids instead of feeling the guilt that I’m spending much more time with other children. In short, I want to be happy again. If I’m happy, I know that that will carry over into my family, a win-win situation.

I have high hopes for good things.

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