I've been employed as a teacher for 9 years, but I've really been a teacher for a lot longer than that -- head writing tutor in college, teaching assistant for my favorite class in high school as an independent study (yep, I'm that nerdy!), private violin instructor, swimming teacher, vacation bible school leader...all the way back to teaching my stuffed animals in the basement when I was 4 or 5. At an awards banquet my senior year of high school, I stood and listened to the presenter read a personal statement I had written in which I said that I hoped, in ten years, to be working on improving educational policy at a national level while the other students around me wished to be married with kids. Teaching is a true passion; I feel happy and fulfilled when I'm working with students, especially when those students are my fellow educators -- and my job as a literacy coach gives me the chance to do just that. Working with teachers to help them hone and perfect their craft to better reach and shape young minds? What could be better than that?
me, giving the commencement address at the school where I used to work
Even with all of that passion for teaching, I had always felt that I would quit my job if and when I had children, and I had planned to do just that, but my principal convinced me to apply for a year leave instead so that I'd have a chance to see how I felt once I actually had a baby. And now I find myself in a difficult position: do I stay home with L, or return to my job next fall?
I admit that I'm incredibly lucky I even get to make this decision in the first place. So many parents find themselves forced to go to work for financial reasons, and I am grateful every day that we planned very carefully so that, when we moved here almost three years ago, our mortgage and monthly expenses would be entirely covered by my husband's salary -- everything I made was icing on the cake and savings for our future. It's tight, and we have to budget and go without, but we can do it, and I'm very fortunate to have a husband who says "Do whatever makes you happiest."
with the co-captains of the amazing speech + debate team I used to coach
But what makes me happiest? I love who I am at work -- I feel confident, responsible, valued as an integral part of something that matters. I like getting dressed up for work, getting to check things off my to-do list, moving towards a goal with a purpose and a greater good. I like the thought of life-beyond-parenting, of having experiences to call my own, of interacting with adults and knowing that people care what I have to say.
At the same time -- this time with my daughter is fleeting. I will never be able to get it back. Having a child is the greatest teaching job of a lifetime -- why would I skip it to spend time with other people's children?
too cool for school!
Have you ever had to make a difficult decision? What helped you figure out what really mattered to you?