Thursday, May 2, 2013

Do you ever want to go back to teaching?

I started college, like everyone else, the fall after my senior year of college. I had always wanted to go into elementary education but frankly didn't think I had the ability to jump through all the required hoops. I spent three years in college before taking a break. I moved home from the University of Montevallo after my dad passed away and just decided to work for a while and try to figure out what I wanted to do. It was during that time - working two jobs - that I realized I could jump through all of those hoops to become an elementary teacher. So I went back to school in January 2008.

When I started the program, I was a little unsure of what was to come. I spent all of 2008 finishing up basics and started taking education courses in January 2009. It took two school years to finish the program. Each semester, I got more and more excited about teaching - especially when I started doing practicum placements and was actually in front of a class most of the week. I loved spending time with the kids. I loved teaching them something they hadn't previously understood before. I loved the hugs, the smiles, the "I love you's". I even loved the tough times. I loved the kids who didn't get a lot of love from their parents. I loved the kids who were just flat-out hard to love. I was ready to conquer the education world.

Then I graduated.

Several girls from my program did not get hired as classroom teachers that first year. I was one of them. I wasn't totally discouraged since I had other friends in the same situation. I decided to substitute in order to get to know different teachers and principals in hopes that I would be considered should an opening arise that school year or the next. I subbed for exactly one month in various schools before being offered a full-time contract substitute position at a school in the Tuscaloosa County School system. It was to work as a librarian, as their librarian was retiring. I started as librarian on November 1, 2011. I was overjoyed to have a job and even more excited that this might lead to a classroom teaching job for the next school year.

Without going into the details (because I am trying to be tactful, even though I honestly don't want to be), I did not get a classroom job at that school the following school year, even though there were three positions open. I also did not get a job anywhere else for reasons I really just can't explain. All throughout my time at UA, I had nothing but excellent reviews, grades, and recommendations. Even the principal I worked for wrote in her recommendation letter, "I wouldn't hesitate to hire Mrs. Ball..." (even though she did, seeing that she hired two other teachers over me, choosing master's degrees over experience...). I never had a bad experience with a class, teacher, or princpal. I am not sure if the principals who interviewed me last summer questioned why I didn't get hired at my previous school, if the news of my pregnancy got leaked (which I am suspicious of), or if it was just bad timing on my part.

This go 'round, I was devastated about not getting a job. There was no way I could substitute again for a school year. Subbing means no benefits, and with a baby on the way, we definitely needed benefits. I made the decision in late July to begin applying for jobs on campus and it only took a few weeks for me to get hired somewhere. It was a temporary position, but within six weeks of working that job, I got offered a full-time position. So, it took me about ten weeks to find a job at UA in a field I have no experience in (purchasing!), and I couldn't get a job in the field I have a degree and plenty of experience in. I don't get it.

So, people ask... "Do you ever want to go back to teaching?" And, honestly, the answer is "no". I had a really bad experience at the school where I was and in the months that followed the end of that position. There are just things no college education can prepare you for when you enter into a job run by the government. There is paperwork, red tape, and politics that come into play that I just could not handle. I applaud our teachers. I don't see how they do it without losing their minds, because I was surely losing mine.

It wasn't the kids I was frustrated with, and that's the tragedy of it all. As long as I could be with my students and the politics of public school left me alone, I was loving it. But the "do this thing this way with this material or else" just isn't me. I just simply don't agree with the way we run our public schools and I definitely didn't agree with things that were happening in the school where I was working. Yet I couldn't do anything about it because I was a lowly "teacher".

I do want to eventually work with kids, but not in a classroom teacher capacity. Honestly, I'm not really sure what I'm going to do with my life. My heart is broken that my experiences left such a bad taste in my mouth and I hate that I can't overcome my issues with our system. I think I am a great teacher who loves learning and loves kids even more, but I can't bring myself to do things the way they want me to. Maybe that's selfish of me, or maybe I just fit in with thousands of other "good teachers" who left the field because of the overbearing issues in our education system. I had to go through a grieving process to let go of the things I miss about teaching. It took several months for me to even be able to talk about this without crying or getting upset. Because, deep down, I think our schools are missing out on someone who truly cares about children and their education and I am missing out on something I was born to do.

Eventually I'll figure something out. For now, I'll be working at UA while Blake finishes up his PhD. And I don't really know where I will go from here. I feel God moving me in a few directions and plan to spend more time listening to what it is He is calling me to do. In some ways, I feel like I wasted my time (and money) on a degree I may never use. But, I think, things can only go up from here. I have lots of opportunities and plenty of time to figure out what's next.

It feels good to get this off of my chest. I haven't posted anything about my experience because I didn't want to burn any bridges. But now that I've decided I don't want to be a classroom teacher (at least the way public schools are run here in our area), I really don't have any bridges left to burn. I loved the teachers I worked with last school year and am so sad that I don't get to see them every day. I miss the kids, too. But, even more, I just miss teaching. I miss making a difference. There are plenty of ways for me to fill those voids, though, which is what I'm working on now - using my gifts and abilities with kids and teaching, just in a different capacity.

Thanks for reading. :)

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