I’m Back (In the Classroom)

Around this time a year ago, I wrote about leaving the classroom to work at a nonprofit. I thought I was probably done with teaching forever. Well, now that we are moving to Atlanta, I am going back. And I’m really excited about it.

In my Atlanta job search, I’ve applied for a bunch of different positions: nonprofit, school system administration, and teaching. I’ve had three interviews: one at a prestigious nonprofit that had been my first choice, one for an ESL position at a high-performing (ish) school close to home, and one for an ESL position at a 100% free/reduced lunch school a little farther from home that was over the phone only.

I knew from the beginning that a teaching job was always a backup for me if I couldn’t find a nonprofit or administrative position in Atlanta. What I didn’t expect was how I strongly I would feel like teaching was what I was supposed to do again, in a particular environment.

I first started to think about teaching seriously during my interview at the close-to-home school. I had such a sense of comfort and ease while talking to the interview panel, the way I always do with educators. Like, these are my people; we get each other. We were completely on the same page, speaking the same language. I knew exactly what to expect from the interview and exactly what I would say in response. But for whatever reason, I wasn’t very excited about working there. They told me they would let me know their decision by the end of this past week.

I felt like the nonprofit job interview went well. They also told me they would let me know by the end of the week. So then when a different school district called on Wednesday about another ESL position, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to participate in the interview process but didn’t expect to take the job.

But after talking to the school system’s ESL director and then the principal of the school, something happened. Maybe it was because I really liked the principal, especially when I googled him and read about his impressive background. Maybe it was because all the particulars of the school and position just seemed to fit: all new administration, lots of new teachers, 3rd, 4th and 5th grade ESL, a small school, combination of pull-out and push-in ESL instruction, my own classroom, etc. Maybe it was because the school is low-performing and 100% high poverty, which is what I am used to. Maybe because the school system is struggling and I feel like they need me. To be totally transparent, maybe it is also because this particular school system pays quite a bit better than the other. For all of these reasons, but also because of something indefinable that I am not really able to articulate, I started feeling like this position was the job I should take, even over the nonprofit job if it was offered to me.

I have always had a very strong intuition. One of the best examples of this is that I knew that Jonathan’s and my first child would be a boy before we were even pregnant with him. So when my intuition was telling me that this was the job for me, I listened to it, asked the principal for a day to consider my options before accepting his offer, and waited to see what would happen.

The rest fell into place. The nonprofit went with someone else. The close-to-home school wanted to hire me but was still evaluating their numbers to see if they needed another full-time ESL teacher. So I am taking the job that compared on paper to the others makes the least sense, but is what I really want. The way everything turned out contributes to my feeling that this is where I’m supposed to be.

The great thing about doing a job that you’ve done before is that you walk in on the first day (which, by the way, is Wednesday!) knowing exactly what to do. So even though I haven’t seen the school other than through Google Streetview, or met the principal or any staff in person, I feel like I’m going home.

 

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Thank you Target for getting me appropriately prepared with cute classroom decorations for the new school year.

 

 

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Life after teaching

On Monday I started my first ever non-teaching job as a professional. For the last five years, I have been an elementary school teacher. I taught ESL for the first four of those years and 2nd grade this previous year. I started to feel the itch for a change about a year and a half ago, but I wasn’t sure in what direction to look for another job. Being a teacher has been such an important part of my identity for a long time, and there were lots of things I loved about it. I loved that moment during a lesson when you know that it’s working, that your kids are really getting it. I loved seeing students make growth from the beginning of the year to the end. I didn’t love having to be at work at the crack of dawn and staying late for meetings. I didn’t love having no independence or freedom of choice about my work day. I didn’t love all the work I had to do at night and on the weekends. But it wasn’t enough for me to pull the plug and look for something else.

Soon after my husband and I had our son Jonah in December, I knew that I was done with teaching. I don’t know why having him made the decision so clear for me, but it did. I didn’t want to stay home full time; I wanted to work–just not as a teacher. I started idly looking for other jobs during my maternity leave, but as I was thinking about what else I could do I found myself at a loss. I quickly realized that other than administrative/central office jobs, there are not a ton of opportunities for teachers looking to get out of the classroom but stay in an education-related field, even if you have a master’s degree.

As I was job searching, I remembered the website of a literacy nonprofit here in town that I had come across a while ago. When I first heard of Reading Connections, I thought at the time that if I ever wanted to get out of the classroom they would be a great group to work for. On a long shot I emailed the director my resume and introduced myself. A couple interviews and a few months later, I am now Reading Connections’ new Family Literacy Manager. I am responsible for all programs our agency is involved with that focus on young children and their parents. My main program is the Family Literacy program, which is a combination of literacy instruction, parenting skills and life skills for parents with low literacy levels and their children. Here is the view from my new office:
11692783_10204433219259620_1404767787281239415_nI am definitely still getting my feet wet, and I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing half the time, but so far I am really enjoying my new job. While not without its challenges (such as finding my car in the parking deck), I love the autonomy to choose what I’m going to work on at what time, the ability to make my own schedule, and just in general feeling like I’m finally being treated like a professional.