This past winter was a very difficult one for me. Besides the weather being dreadful in New England where I reside, I endured a great deal of inner turmoil. So much so, I considered leaving the teaching profession. As a result, I know my teaching suffered, as I was not focused on my work. Rather, I was focused on finding another job. I had been in pursuit of other opportunities since October 2014. I aspired to a leadership position, something which would give me greater voice and authority in teaching and learning. However, I received few responses to my job applications, despite the fact that I am and was working with a wonderful career coach who helped me to greatly improve my cover letters and resumes. Perhaps I was applying for the wrong jobs. Perhaps I was not the right person for those jobs. Perhaps it was simply not my time. Whatever the reason, by late March, the entire process had taken a significant emotional toll.
Given the lack of response I had received from independent schools, I shifted my focus to corporate jobs in learning and development. However, many of those jobs required a technical area of expertise. Although I have the teaching and learning component, I don’t have, for example, skill and knowledge in manufacturing or design technology, to name two.
In addition to the disappointment of my job search, I was not feeling good about myself, or my chosen career as a teacher. I felt uninspired, unmotivated, and feeling that being just a teacher, especially in independent schools where one wears several hats, was not regarded very highly. The typical model on the way up the leadership ladder in independent schools is that one spends on average five years in the classroom, and then begins his ascent. Additionally, one’s worth in independent schools is often tied to her rank and position. Perhaps this is not true for all independent schools, but, it appears to be the case for many independent schools. So, it seems, at least in my case, with respect to the positions for which I had applied, and, per the independent school leadership model, I had spent too many years in the classroom – 21 to be exact.
I then did something that I rarely do: I reached out to not one but two colleagues I admire and respect greatly – both of them educators. I received an abundance of encouragement from my conversations with these bright, intelligent, and wise colleagues. They both encouraged me to remain in teaching. One even said, “You have over two decades invested!” Which is true. I have invested much to become the teacher I am today. However, one hit upon the very reason I had considered leaving teaching in the first place: My personal worth, my self-esteem, is directly attached to my work. It became immediately apparent to me, as I listened to my colleague, that I had applied to leadership positions with the thought that greater rank, authority and influence would give my work greater value and importance, and in turn, give me greater worth. I also realized that I was looking for affirmation from external factors.
The funny thing is, there is really nothing else I can imagine myself doing. Furthermore, if I ever did leave the classroom, I would want to remain connected to kids and teachers in some way, and improve the learning, and strengthen the teaching.
So, since those conversations with my beloved colleagues, I have decided to rededicate myself to teaching, and to be the best Spanish teacher I can be. I have also decided to focus more on me, and to improve my self-care. Last, I am considering areas of my practice that will give me greater meaning, that will motivate and inspire me, and that will feed rather than stifle my creativity.
The things I have come to realize in the past several weeks were not easy for me. In fact, it was very difficult to not only recognize but also to admit to myself that I was pursuing other opportunities for reasons which had little to do with the jobs themselves. On the other hand, while I could have done a good job in many of the positions to which I had applied, I recognize now that I would not have been happier, and that Devine Intervention played a significant role in where I am now.