I walked into my dream job at 22 years old–unlike many others educators who substitute for a year, work .86 contracts, start at emerging districts and work their way up, teach half one subject and half another to get their foot in the door, I started in a big district, I was gifted with my dream schedule of teaching advanced classes, teach out of textbooks and rigid manuals, I was allowed freedom to develop my curriculum and teach what I was passionate about, I had my very own classroom to set up, the ability to resurrect a dance team and build it from the ground up, the way I wanted it, and if ever I had a breakdown, assistance was always a Google chat, a phone call, or district-mail away–I could not have entered into this profession in a better and more fortunate way.
The job itself could not have come to me in a more perfect way. I began interviewing for jobs before I even completed my student teaching. As well all know, finding a job is an emotional roller coaster; you have what you think is an outstanding interview, only to get rejected, only to get another interview ten minutes later, and your excitement peaks again. I had interviewed at five other schools, and one of the schools who rejected me mentioned one of the other schools wanted to start a dance team. So, I walked into the athletic office, went into the teaching interview, and was offered my dream position of teaching and coaching.
I remember standing at my very first faculty farewell, after I had just completed my first year teaching. The teacher retiring had begun her career at the school, and the staff shared many stories about her. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, I can’t wait for that to be me!” (mostly that she was retiring and not working anymore, but also that she was dedicated to the school for her entire career), and I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my calling is no longer to stay at the school who so generously took a risk with me and offered me my first teaching job–my dad always says that we are no longer a career society. We no longer enter into a company at 22, and retire in the same company at 65, like the generation before us.
My very first teaching job offered me opportunities for growth, and I would not be the educator I am today without the generous students who took to my sometimes experimental lesson plans, the knowledgeable colleagues who imparted their wisdom on me, and the panels, classes, and other professional development opportunities I’ve been able to partake in. I’ve been able to witness and learn from some of the best educators, participate in reforming discussions, utilize my creative energies in poster making, faculty dance choreographing, school spirit promoting. I’ve been in a familiar environment that I grew up in, I’ve worked with many people who were part of my own adolescent development, coached under the same conditions as when I was an athlete, and I am excited to take this new opportunity, to “fly solo”, and transpire my abilities in a new, unfamiliar territory.
Change is scary. When I first began entertaining the idea of leaving my very first teaching job, I certainly felt anxiety. I am potentially leaving somewhere that is comfortable–everyone knows my name, I’ve already developed relationships and a reputation. My curriculum is built, I know the students names, and their families , my health insurance steady, I know how to work the copy machines when they break down. And, all of this anxiety was produced from fear.
I think we sometimes ‘stay in things’ because we fear the value of the time we spent and the sacrifices we made will be lost once we quit. Like, sometimes we stay in relationships for six years, because we think that, by severing the relationship, we are discounting all of the work we put into building it the first few years. Or, we stay in a job, because we fear the sacrifices we made while we were working won’t be honored.
But, I had to come to the realization that I cannot let fear govern my life. If the only reason I am staying at my job is because I am afraid of change, then I am not allowing myself the opportunity to grow–the opportunity to collaborate with other minds, ruminate on different topics, be introduced to different materials and challenges and lifestyles–all things that make us better people–and while the future is unknown, and certainly some of these fears may come true, by allowing myself to stay based on fear would prevent me from also experiencing some really great and enlightening things as well, and to experience another part of the world I have been sheltered from.
I say farewell to my first teaching job with very bittersweet sentiments. It has been a great ride, I’ve learned so much in the last five years, and am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had, and the people who have mentored me along the way, and I eagerly look forward to the new journey that lays before me.
Like Jason Aldean says, it is not good bye, but rather, a, “I’ll see you when I see you”.
(Special shout out to all my former students who endured my class! I’ll miss you!)