Some of you may know that I have a degree in Secondary English Education. I’m a licensed middle school and high school English teacher in the state of Kansas; I graduated first in my class from one of the top teaching schools in the nation, and yet I spend my days working a part time job as the assistant director of a children’s fitness center. If I had a dollar for every time I got asked why I’m not teaching, I would have a lot of dollar dollar bills, y’all. So let me break it down Barney style for you…
1) Teaching is ungodly, ridiculously, sickeningly stressful. It is also very rewarding, don’t get me wrong. What a lot of people don’t realize, though, is that between all of those tiny miraculous moments where you really reach a kid, there is a lot of work. You don’t get there without putting yourself through hell. I spent so many nights crying in frustration, trying to figure out how to make activities fun, educational, relevant, and exciting. Trying to figure out how to reach out to those kids that were just floating by. Trying to figure out how to be the best educator any of them would ever interact with. The pressure put on teachers by students, administrators, parents, society in general is out of this world. They are held to standards so high I’m still not sure it’s actually possible to achieve them. Combine that with a perfectionist personality and it’s a recipe for (you guessed it) stress.
2) Teaching takes up your entire life. Between lesson planning, writing assignments, making copies, grading, inputting grades, helping with homework, helping with life problems, preparing for conferences, wasting time at conferences because no parents ever actually come, staff meetings, department meetings, IEP meetings, obsessively checking your mailbox and email, etc.–there just was not a whole lot of time to be anything but a teacher. It became heart-wrenchingly difficult just to try and find a tiny bit of me-time to hit the gym or eat a lunch that wasn’t just a sandwich.
3) Teaching can be really, really hard on your soul. I worked with some of the sweetest, most wonderful students in the entire world. I met young men and women who will surely change the world, and I heard their stories. I heard about the awful things their young hearts had already had to deal with and it broke me down. It hurt so much to see these innocent and wonderful lives that had been so squashed and damaged and toyed with. It hurt to have one of my students tell me I was really the first woman she’d ever looked up to. It was an incredible compliment, but it broke my heart that in her 15 years of life she had never really encountered another woman she could admire…and it scared me that she was looking up to me–21 years old, no clue what I was doing, and basically bonkers–of all people. On the other hand, I also had students who, no matter how hard I tried, seemed dead to the world. At 17 years old, they were already done dealing with the world and all it had to offer. How do you handle that when you’re only 21 years old? How do you process any of that at any age?
When I first moved to Maryland, I had a crazy passionate fire under my butt for education. I had just won an award as one of the top education students from my university and I was working on picking a university to begin working on a Masters degree in Educational Technology Integration. I had big dreams of working for Apple or Google and helping schools by teaching seminars for educators on ways to appropriately and effectively integrate technology and tech programs into their classrooms to more fully prepare their students for the 21st century workforce and life. I was going to get my license in Maryland and I was going to change the world.
Do you know what happened next? I found My Gym. I found a job where I work with tiny hearts that are still innocent and sweet and adorable. I get to wear yoga pants and no shoes. I run around and play and hold babies and help children of all walks of life. I work with parents, teaching them new ways to bond with their children and showing them techniques to help their children develop physically, emotionally, and socially. I am rarely stressed from work. In fact, going to work usually eliminates my stress because seriously, who can be stressed out when they’re playing with babies all day? I’m still utilizing all of the great things I learned in school. I’m still teaching, still changing lives (albeit teeny tiny ones). I’m going to own my own franchise someday so that I can make sure this wonderful company reaches as far as it possibly can. And I’m so, so, so happy doing it. Do I still have days where I miss teaching? Absolutely. I miss writing my lesson plans. I miss teaching meaningful lessons through books. Who knows, someday, maybe teaching will be the right thing for me to be doing. Right now, it is not.
The reason for this blog is this: I’ve talked to so many of my friends and classmates who feel bad because they don’t enjoy teaching. I very firmly believe that regardless of what career you’re in, you need to be happy. You might not be in your dream job, don’t get me wrong. Finances and benefits and job security are all things that need to be considered, but no one should spend every day miserable. If I managed to find a job where I’m still using my teaching degree, but getting paid to wear yoga pants and no shoes all day, you can do it too. Not every day should feel like a Monday, my friends.