Hello, Good-bye: Changes Are Good for the Soul

One of the benefits of living in the 112 degrees of Las Vegas is the conservatory at the Bellagio Hotel. At least it’s cool in the hotels!

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.

Waterfall at the BellagioIf 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.

10 thoughts on “Hello, Good-bye: Changes Are Good for the Soul

  1. Meredith, I’m sure you’ve made the right choices since you so obviously feel llighter and yet ready in time to take on a new but different load. I just want to wish you great luck in whatever direction your new teaching career takes you, or you take it. I know you’ll be a success.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

  2. After 23 years of teaching both college and senior high school classes, I quit and joined the Peace Corps to teach English and writing at a university in Slovakia. When I returned to the USA, I was asked to be a Mentor Teacher, which I did for 16 more years. I understand your desire for change and your commitment to teaching writing skills. You will have new tools..technology. I assume UNLV is the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, an institution where I nearly worked in the 1950s for Bill Carlson, the man who became the President of the school. I wish you a wonderful time switching gears!

    • The funny thing about teachers is that we never really stop teaching. I think it’s too much in our blood. We may change schools or where or how we teach, the the drive to teach is a strong one. Yes, UNLV is the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Thank you! I’m very excited and looking forward to it. It will be a lot of work, but I think it will be a great change.

  3. Hi Meredith!
    I’ve been teaching languages and literature online for many years, and I love it! I’ve seen places I never thought I would see: Singapore, Romania, Oslo, etc. This year, my Dean is retiring, and, as a present, I think, he gave me a modern South American lit course to teach online. I love it! My student is Mexican, and we’re learning together, because I’m actually a French medievalist. The course is entirely in Spanish, and, of course, we’re on Skype. I get to go to Cancun while she’s on vacation (virtually, of course). How cool is that?! What I like most about the course is that I spend my time picking out all the literary devices and how they work together to make the novel’s statement. That’s great for me because it makes me realize what more I could be doing in my own writing. I’m hoping that, since the course is going so well, my Dean will let me do more of these courses next term (he isn’t leaving until the Spring).
    Are you going to be working with those huge Skype screens for whole classes? I’ve always wondered about those. Is there someone in the classroom to discipline? I know that system works for language teaching – You can just call up a class in France, for example, to talk to your class in French. But I wonder how else it can be used.
    Well, I think your new career might be fun! Good luck!

    • Hi Leigh. Wow! Sounds like you have a great gig. How exciting to teach students all over the world. I think that’s what’s wonderful about Internet teaching–you can think outside of the box about how you’re going to present information and what types of projects you can have your students do. For my classes, I’ll simply be using a laptop to communicate. We used a large screen Skype for one of my classes at UNLV last semester and it was really cool because you felt like you were right there with the person you’re talking to. It will be an experiment and I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes. Thanks!

  4. Ah! Best of luck to you, Meredith. I’m so happy for you, for your forward career step. I always enjoy reading your posts and will look forward to your next novel. You’ve been a special kind of inspiration for me.

    • Thank you so much, Carole. I really appreciate that. Yes, my next novel is still very much on its way. One good thing about summer is I get some real writing time! I thought of maybe trying out a few chapters on Wattpad just out of curiosity. I’ll let you know if I do that. I’m thrilled to think that I’ve been able to help anyone along on this crazy journey of mine.

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