Today marks my last day as a teacher. It’s the end of an era for me. I’ve spent the past eleven years as a public school teacher, the first two of those at a middle school and the remaining nine at the same high school. Before that I taught college freshmen as part of my graduate program, so overall I’ve been teaching thirteen years.
I’d like to say the decision to leave the classroom was a hard one. But truthfully? I’m glad to go. The education system in this country is in shambles, and I am beyond frustrated watching it and being part of it, yet being powerless to do anything about it.
**Please note that I’m not saying anything negative about the teachers. Despite what some media say, the teachers are not the problem. I’ve worked with some of the most dedicated, passionate, skilled, and intelligent teachers one could ever hope for. The poor teachers are also victims of the system.**
So will I miss teaching? Not really. I’ve been teaching the same content for nine years straight. For instance, I’ve taught Macbeth close to forty times. Yikes. I can do it with my eyes closed. Literally. I actually did that after I had eye surgery.
I never intended to become a teacher. I fell into it by accident. As part of my grad program, I taught college freshmen and liked it, so when I graduated with a shiny new M.A. in English, what was I to do? I hadn’t a clue, so I continued teaching. It was challenging, and I love a good challenge. It was also really fun in the beginning.
As the years went on and it became less fun and challenging in a different way, one thing never changed: my love of the students. I love my students. Spending time with them is what made this job worth it for the last decade. I also had the privilege of being the yearbook adviser for the last nine years, and through that position, I worked with some fantastic young people. I still keep in touch with quite a few of them. Every year the yearbook staff slowly turned into a family as we battled to meet deadlines and produce an award-winning book. They were and always will be “my girls.” (Okay, and boys–I had a total of three over the years.) I will miss them and the possibility that comes with each new staff.
The bottom line is I love my students. I wish I could take that part of the job with me, but it doesn’t work that way.
So what does tomorrow bring?
As the proverbial teaching door closes, another one opens as my venture into being a full-time writer begins.
I’m following my dream and throwing caution to the wind for the first time in my life and it feels…scary? exhilerating? stressful? freeing? Check back with me in September. I, like just about every other teacher, am burned out from finishing up another school year and can’t think about anything but getting to the end. And since I’ll be home with my kids this summer, it won’t fully sink in until they go back to school and I don’t. Gulp.
So instead I’ll tell you what I’m looking forward to.
Having a flexible schedule so I can be more involved with my kids’ school. I hope to never have to say, “Sorry, son, I can’t come to such-and-such because I have to work.”
Actually getting to see my family in the evenings instead of being closeted away in my office, hammering away on my keyboard.
Spending my work day with my puppies and in my PJs if I want. (I have already stocked up on yoga pants, the uniform of writers everywhere.)
Being able to grocery shop during the day to avoid the Saturday Wal-Mart crowd. (If you’ve ever experienced it, then you know why this made the list.)
Having time to exercise. (Okay, I’ll be honest here–I’m dreading this. I hate exercise.)
Not having to scramble to make sub plans when my kids are sick.
Being my own boss.
The big one? Finally pursuing my dream of being an author. Really going after it in a full-out sprint rather than the meager meander I’ve been resigned to in my spare time. (Okay, perhaps this metaphor isn’t the best choice for me. See above re: exercise.)
With a traditional job, there is a guaranteed paycheck. There are no guarantees in publishing. I could be the next Nora Roberts, Suzanne Collins, Richelle Mead, Gayle Forman, Jennifer L. Armentrout, the list goes on and on. We’d be here all day if I listed all my favorite authors. Or I could be the next nobody. I could never sell another book. You just never know.
But you know what? One day, I could be on someone else’s favorite author list. I could be the first and only Jessica Ruddick.
And to me, that’s worth the risk.