Dilemma

Jonny and I went to dinner with one of my colleagues last weekend. I am really struggling with my job right now, and that dinner conversation did not help. Luckily we were able to talk about things other than work, but in the car ride home, we returned to the subject. After a few frustrating attempts to explain myself, I finally landed on why the past few months have been so hard for me: I am not sure if teaching is my dream anymore.

I have always been a planner. Although I attended a liberal arts college, I knew that I had to graduate career-ready or else I would never be able to afford to live my life — neither of my parents were in the position to provide any sort of safety net for me, and honestly, I would have been too proud to accept help. Our terms for college were clear: I would be able to go anywhere I wanted, study anything I was interested in, but the cost + my life after fell squarely on my shoulders.

By the end of the fall semester of my first year, I had my career path narrowed down between education and occupational therapy. I shadowed an OT at a local hospital and after one too many afternoons of playing Connect Four with a terribly frustrated, middle-aged stroke survivor, I gave up on occupational therapy and enrolled in educational philosophy the following spring. I explained to my new adviser that my sixth grade teacher had significantly impacted my life — he made me feel like I could do anything — and I wanted the opportunity to do the same for others.

I have had a unique career trajectory that has mostly been dictated by geography — I stayed in my tiny, rural Midwestern town for two years after college, and then, after I was denied the opportunity to change positions in my district, I decided to move back to Nashville to be closer to my friends and family. I got three job offers from schools in Middle Tennessee, and I took the one that was five minutes away from the house I would be renting with my best friend. That school was on the verge of closing due to poor test scores, so I interviewed at a charter school and secured a position there for my fourth year of teaching.  Eventually, Jonny [my husband] decided to apply to law school and we ended up deciding to move to Portland. I interviewed at three schools here, received three offers, and here I am, miserable in the middle of year six. Upon further reflection, I truly only enjoyed teaching my first and fourth year on the job. Those are not good odds for a long term career, right?

 At this point, I have three options:

 1. Leave my current job. I am not going into details about why this option feels so pressing for me because it mostly involves the families of students in my class, but I will say that in my six years of teaching, I’ve never felt so disrespected or set up for failure as I have this year. This is the first time I’ve taught in a school that has a calendar that runs from Labor Day until mid-July, which means I have five months left in the school year. I could hang in there until the end of May, easily, but I don’t know if I can last through July.

 2. Finish this year, and then take a year off from teaching to reset my career goals. Find a job that has more flexibility in terms of scheduling so that I can take time to set up internships, network, audit or enroll in a class at Portland State, etc.

 3. Keep to my original commitment– when I signed my contract, I anticipated staying at this school for three years while Jonny completed law school, then, hopefully, taking time off to have children. It is my first year at this school, there is a great learning curve transitioning from public to private school, and each class year to year varies so incredibly that it would be impossible to predict how different next year would be compared to this year.

 I read Elle Luna’s Crossroads of Should and Must last night, and if I am being truthful, the last two options feel like Shoulds and the first feels like my Must. However, the idea of quitting without a plan in place for what’s next feels almost as distressing as staying in my current situation until July. I’d like to trust my gut here, but my gut led me to choosing my current school, thinking an experience at a private school would reinvigorate my passion. That certainly has not happened!

 Any advice out there?
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