Despite years of preparation my teaching career did a spectacular belly flop within three years of kickoff. An outstanding first year followed by a disastrous stint in St. Louis landed me in burnout central, and to say I was super pissed about that would be a huge understatement. I loved teaching. I knew it was what I wanted to do from my first year in college, and the thought that I was done crushed me.
When BrightSide and I moved back east I needed to earn a paycheck, but teaching was out of the question. Cue my time collecting a W2 from Hades while I tried to get my feet back under me. It took time but eventually the stars aligned and my teaching life got a reboot.
My abrupt departure from The Corporation
kicked me in the ass gave me a chance to really think about how I was spending my time, and I decided to roll the dice. I missed teaching, but I didn’t want to go back into the public schools. I wanted to try something different – teaching in a new setting and, in my dream scenario, specializing in core subjects. Other people designed their ideal jobs, right? Why not me?
I contacted a local private school to ask about part time positions available. The principal was a bit surprised and needed some time to think it over. When she called me that summer to talk I realized I’d shown up at the perfect time. She had enough third grade students for two classes, but in the tradition of educators everywhere they were always looking for ways to cut spending. It was a small school and every penny counted, so the idea of hiring someone with a Master’s degree at a part time salary was a win for them.
Which is how I began teaching in the local Catholic school.
I had a third grade homeroom and taught math, language arts, and cursive for that grade level. I also picked up a second grade reading group in the mornings. My school day was officially over at 2:00pm, although I never deluded myself into thinking this would actually be a part time job. Lots of work came home in my bag, but still. Just being able to leave school grounds by 2:00 (the Specials teachers handled dismissal for my class) gave me the wiggle room I needed to avoid feeling like I was in a pressure cooker.
Plus things were radically different in a small religious school. Discipline problems? Well, sure, we had them…kids are kids, after all. But after St. Louis it was hard to get terribly worked up about uniform violations for a missing belt. We emphasized kindness, and manners, and following Jesus’ example of loving your neighbor. All pretty good stuff when it comes to creating a positive learning (and work) environment.
I enjoyed three years there before T-man surprised us, cutting that last school year short by a week. And I knew those teachers were family because they lifted us up, celebrating our son and covering my class for the remainder of the year. I think it was my experience there that made me eager to get involved volunteering in the schools once the kids were old enough.
All in all I feel pretty lucky. I might have had a couple of rocky years but overall I found teaching immensely rewarding, and you can’t ask for much more than that out of a job.