I recently finished my first year as a doctoral student in the Teacher Education program at UNLV. I even ended up with a B+ in my Statistics class, which for me is like an A+ for anyone else. For someone who has had to retake every math class she’s ever taken in her life, finishing the first time with a B+ was a definite personal best.
Recently, I made another change as well, which was resigning my full-time teaching position. Where at first I was going to apply for a leave of absence which would allow me to return to my position after a year, I realized that, when all is said and done, I’m not going back to traditional K-12 classroom teaching. Was it hard to leave behind the career that paid my rent and other assorted bills for the last 20 years? Well, it was a hard decision from the standpoint that I’ve made my living as a classroom teacher since 1994, and yet it was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made. It was time to move on. I just knew it. I had felt it in my gut for several years now. I knew I had gone as far as I could as a K-12 classroom teacher, and I needed some new challenge. It took me a few years to figure out what my next line of action would be, but I figured it out, and when it was time to go I knew it. Where normally leaving behind the job where I made my living would cause me no end of stress or worries, I found myself surprisingly calm as I made the decision to resign, which only further proved to me that I was making the right choice. I am still all in praise of day jobs, but I also believe that the day job should be one that makes your heart sing. There’s no worse feeling dragging yourself somewhere every day where you don’t want to go, and no better feeling than giving yourself a chance to do something different.
I thought I would feel more nostalgic than I did as I packed up my classroom. I had materials from all grade levels to weed through since in 20 years I’ve taught everything from kindergarten through high school, as well as a number of writing workshops for adults. And while some of the files I went through brought back a lot of good memories from some amazing years teaching great kids, mainly I felt relief that I was finally getting the change I craved. I gave away my reading books, posters, and teacher guides to a friend who is switching grade levels, and I recycled my paper files. It was like that feeling you get when you finally clean out the clutter from your closet—as though I felt physically lighter without the unnecessary baggage. I wasn’t particularly emotional when I handed in my keys for the last time. For the first time in a long time, I was looking forward to the changes and the challenges in the future. To me, that was yet another sign that I was headed in the right direction. For years, I had held onto that teaching job as though it was the only thing between me and financial oblivion. It’s amazing what a little faith can do to your outlook.
If you’re not familiar with Sarah Rudell Beach’s website Left-Brain Buddha, I highly recommend it. She talks about living with mindfulness, which is something I’m struggling to do every day—some days with more success than others, but it’s the intention that counts, right? In her post “Leaving the Classroom,” Sarah talks about her own journey leaving the classroom after 17 years of teaching. And like Sarah, it’s not that I’m no longer teaching, but simply that I’ll be teaching differently. Instead of one full-time job I’ll be working as a Graduate Assistant at UNLV, where one of my duties will be teaching a class called Teaching Writing Secondary School, which is right up my alley since that’s what I’m studying for my degree. I’ll also be teaching over the Internet, which is very interesting to me since I think, based on what I’ve seen as a public school teacher, that technology is the way we have to go if we’re going to capture the attention and curiosity of our 21st century students. I read in Stratosphere, Michael Fullan’s book about technology in schools, that we’re trying to teach 21st century students using a 20th century model. I couldn’t agree more. Through my studies at UNLV, I hope to find a way to prepare preservice teachers (fancy-speak for university students studying education) to become effective writing teachers. So, no, I’m not leaving teaching at all. I’m simply hoping to reach a larger audience now. My goal is to help others realize how strong writing skills can help us, all of us, not just those of us who want to write for a living.
I know the power of writing, as many of you do. I count myself among those who believe that writing helped to keep me sane at various points of my life. Writing is more than any essay (though no one could deny the importance of being able to write a well-argued, well-organized essay). Writing is big, and it should be treated, and taught, as such. I’m excited at the prospect of being part of that conversation. The freedom I’ll have due to my change in jobs will only give me more time to pursue my studies.