Saturday, September 17, 2011

Why not teach?

So, I have this fabulous teaching degree that took 6 years and as many schools to acquire (luckily thanks to my grades and being a poor military wife, it wasn't too expensive.) I graduated summa cum laude with a 3.9 GPA (damn Moby Dick and that one A-). *Not really. I actually had a couple of B+ over the years, but grades don't transfer so they didn't ding my GPA at my last school.* I have glowing letters of recommendation, a couple of years experience teaching and subbing, and I might even be a better interview these days since I wouldn't be as stressed out about wanting the actual job. (My mom ended up in a graduate class with someone on one of the interviewing committees for a job that I almost got. The girl actually remembered me from the year before and told my mom they didn't pick me because  I came off as too they gave the job to someone who already worked in their building.)

A couple days ago I was telling my mom about my sonography school plans for the second time, I guess the first time she thought I was just tossing the idea around, and she says, "I think you should give teaching another try."  It took lot of restraint not to hang up on her, out of all people, I'd think she'd understand getting away from teaching the most since she's on the verge of retiring and always says if she could go back, she would have never become a teacher. But apparently she forgets that.

So then yesterday when we were on the way out to do some baby stuff shopping, I was talking to Joe about if he'd prefer me to take evening classes or weekend classes, and he sighed and said, "Can't you just teach?" Even though he'd already said he was okay with it, I guess when I started talking class schedules and prereqs it seems more real now.

I told him, sometimes things in life don't turn out the way you had planned (I think the babyloss community knows this more than anyone), everything is different now. My priorities are different. In some ways, I am different. I am incredibly lucky that this is a feasible option even, but it is. It makes sense for our family, it makes sense financially, and the job market is very strong with many different options, and best of all, it is something I really really want to do. That's *why* this.

If I'm being honest, teaching was never something I really really wanted to do. I mean, I like kids (er, most of them, not all.) I liked working with them. But it was never something I loved. Mostly, it was comfortable. My mom is a teacher, I thought I knew what I was getting into. And school, I've always LOVED school, I've always been really good at school. And I've always liked English and writing. I started working on my degree right as I became a child bride (a month shy of 19) and moved overseas with Joe, becoming a teacher was a safe, comfortable choice when everything else was a bit chaotic. Plus, I'm persistent and stubborn and not easily dissuaded, so once I had made up my mind, that was it. (My parents both tried to talk me out of going into teaching.)

But the real, deeper reason is that fairly or not, I still partially blame my working environment and the spawns of satan in Hell City for ruining at the very least, my last months pregnant with Olivia. At worst, they/it contributed to how severely and how quickly I got sick. I was teaching middle school reading. I found out I was pregnant in May, the same day I got and accepted the job offer. I waited until I was "safely" in the 2nd trimester, about 13 weeks, to call my principal over the summer and let her know. She was nice about it, and oh, by the way, the teacher across the hall from me was also pregnant. She was due in late October, I was due in January. I was never given any sort of curriculum. The previous reading teacher became the 7th grade English teacher and she just kind of shrugged and said they mostly did this Reading Academy computer program in previous years (which they decided not to do anymore.) The principal told me the class sets of novels that they had ordered for me at a meeting a few weeks before school started and said they should be there in time. I had no textbooks and a crappy hodge podge mix of novels in my classroom that weren't really interesting for middle schoolers. I collected books all summer and brought in several boxes of books for them to read. The school year started in early August and the class set of novels that I had planned to start teaching still weren't in. At first, the principal always had excuses "the order got canceled but was resubmitted, it should be here next week." They were always supposed to be in the next week. And then she just got annoyed with me asking about them. Last I heard, as of October of that year, the books still weren't in. So I was a reading teacher with no class set of textbooks or novels (but expecting those novels in every day), without really enough of an interesting classroom library to do anything with given the kids that I had, and no curriculum to follow either beyond the state grade level expectations. I was pulling stuff to do out of my ass every day. I took the question words from the state tests "assess, evaluate, describe, list, compare, contrast" etc. and turned them into a few lessons. I borrowed magazines from other teachers that had plays in them and we read those. I found articles and short stories and made 8 million copies. But basically, I was constantly and desperately trying to figure out what the hell to do. I was working from an hour after I woke up until I went to bed. We had to eat with the 6th graders (who I had to constantly watch, lest they start throwing milk cartons and food at each other), and I usually even ate dinner while working most nights. It was rough.

But even worse was the spawn of satan children. I had 2 classes of 8th graders (they were fine), a class of 7th graders (one really bad-"the bomb threat" kid and the rest really chatty but not too bad), and 3 classes of 6th graders (they were awful, all 3 classes.) The sixth graders weren't just bad for me, but for all of the sixth grade teachers. The other teachers, veterans who had been teaching 10+ years, were at a loss for what to do with them and even went to the principals asking for suggestions because they had never had a group of kids that bad and were out of things to try. They never shut up, they were mean to each other, they were unphased by everything. I joked to the 7th grade pregnant teacher across the hall from me that Olivia's first words were going to be "Stop talking!" because I yelled it a hundred times a day. (Talking didn't work, ignoring them and waiting for them to shut up on their own didn't work, turning the lights off didn't work, giving them extra homework didn't work, I spent hours after school calling parents and assigning detention which also didn't work and was extremely time consuming when I had no time to spare, yelling over them generally did work at least for a few minutes until they started up all over again.)  The principal had a special assembly just for 6th grade, and spent a half hour yelling at them and telling them she was going to start calling the police because it is illegal to interfere with other people's right to an education, blah blah blah. (She put on a nice show but was two faced and useless if it meant more work for her. She ended up getting fired, long after I was gone.) There was one day that they were really good. It was the week before we lost Olivia. Apparently some girls complained to her about this particular 6th grader who was out of control in all of his classes and especially mine. I wrote him up and sent him to the office, they sent him back. I called his mom and gave him detention numerous times (mom yelled at me for giving him detention). I sent him into hallway (weren't supposed to do that either).  He also sexually harassed female classmates regularly, I sent the girls to the office to report it, and got a phone call back from the principal screaming at me for sending them to her. Anyway, so some of the kids went to the principal to complain about this kid. Principal calls me into her office on my plan time and chews me a new asshole for letting this kid be so out of control. I point out how many times I've written him up and given him detention, sent him into the hall, all to no avail (even my neighbor teachers had talked and then yelled at this kid)..she says she's never seen them...then looks it up on the computer as if I'm lying about it and low and behold...there are all of the incidents which "must have been a glich in the computer system" because she'd never seen them. (BS.) Anyway, the day before I had had what turned out to be my last appointment and growth ultrasound with Olivia. Her growth was falling way too far behind, my pain was severe and my doctor was talking about maybe having to deliver very early if her growth didn't start catching up. I asked about bedrest, but there's no research out there to indicate it helps or would have hindsight, it sure as hell wouldn't have hurt. So I pretty much had a breakdown-stressed out and miserable- and spent the entire day crying and trying not to cry while teaching. Some of the 6th graders saw me and spread the word around and they were freaking angels that entire day. They were back to their normal selves the next day. And that was when I called my ob's office on my lunch break while the other teachers watched my 6th graders, crying, and begged them to pull me out of work. I didn't have enough time to call off on my own, and I was afraid to quit because I didn't want to risk losing my teaching license. I talked to my ob's nurse, my ob was out that day and was going to call me on Monday. At 3 am Monday morning I was in the hospital.

I still can't believe I let that bitch (principal) in our home. She tried to talk me out of quitting and brought food after Olivia died.  She said how much she'd help me and that she'd talk to the kids, blah blah blah. On Saturday, we went to school and packed up most of my stuff that we could take without it screwing the next teacher over too much (like I left the turn in trays, but took the 6 crates I had bought for kids to leave their journals in.) I've heard (the pregnant teacher ended up being in a different grad school class with my mom) that the principal and kids got worse as the year went on.It's hard for me to imagine how that's possible.

I have a lot of regrets from that. And I will always wonder if it would have been different if I'd stopped working. But that was why I was for sure not going to work when I was pregnant with Lucas. I know not all schools are like hell city, but for one, I don't ever want to risk getting stuck in a school like that again. And two, being an English teacher will almost always require me to take work home, and now that I have experienced just how fleeting this time with my kids can be, I'm not willing to sacrifice that much time away from them. Even when I taught at the alternative schools with computer based programs, I assigned them writing work regularly and was too busy working with the kids all day (no plan time or even breaks, kids were there for 9 hours) to grade it, so that came home. If I'm going to have a job away from them all day, no way am I willing to bring work home regularly. Especially not for a crappy teacher salary. Losing Olivia changed my priorities, and teaching is no longer one of them.

So that's why not. (This got much longer and deeper than I intended, but oh well.)


MrsH said...

I also had a very stressful job before losing Adrian, and I also quit it afterwards. Of course I worried that the stress had contributed to the loss, as well as the long physical hours on my feet. I know it wouldn't have, but at the same time after the loss I decided that I am going to make myself happy, for Adrian's sake, and that I would not waste a moment in an environment where I did not feel supported. It was a GOOD decision. Please follow your heart, if you want to become a sonographer, do it. You would be sensitive and kind and that matters a lot to the patients. And you are obviously very smart, it is clear from your writing. Just do it.

Brooke said...

That job sounds ridiculous and awful. I don't blame you at all for walking away. I also think you would be awesome in healthcare, so I am 100% behind that plan! The only thing I would add is that not ALL teaching jobs are so stressful. The environment totally depends on your district and coworkers, so it might be possible for you to find another teaching job you would enjoy much more than hell city! Not that I think you *should*, I just don't think you can lump all teaching jobs into one terrible experience. Still, you are young and smart and if teaching is not your passion, then I definitely think you should pursue something else. Your perspective is unique and important, and I'd love to have you as a sonogram tech!

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