We work in an amazing profession that allows for a fresh start every twelve months. Not many jobs can boast that perk. The opportunities are there for us to make it “the Best Year EVER!”
If you’re a rookie this year, just out of college, or even in your first few years, you may be wondering , “Is this what I want to do with my life?”
So if you’ve been asking yourself this question lately, take heart. We’ve all asked that same question at one time or another. The first years in any profession are usually the hardest you will encounter. So also it may be with this one.
There is just so much to learn and so little time, so many names to remember, and new paperwork and administrative demands and …oh, yeah, children to teach!
Remember that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There’re lots of wheels rolling around that somebody already invented; there’re lots of lesson plans available that somebody’s already written and tested out. There’s lots of help out there. If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for some. It is no reflection on your ability to not know something. We need your enthusiasm, your youth and your ideas. We don’t want to lose you.
If you’ve been at this for a few years. You also take heart. The toughest times are probably behind you, although I say “probably” because no one knows the future. But you have your “teacher legs”. You know that you have indeed made it to winter break and then spring break and then…lo and behold, the last day of school more than once and are still here to tell about it. You’ve seen stuff work and not work. You’ve picked up what’s good and discarded what doesn’t fit for you. You can see the “big picture” a lot clearer now, and know that, while you can’t save everybody, there may just be something that only you can say to that one child that may change his life forever. You think that maybe you are on to something here, and are glad you became a teacher.
But, and there is always a “But”….if you find yourself having to drag yourself in every day, hating the idea of being in a classroom in spite of what you have trained for, just don’t like this anymore- if that describes you, then maybe you should consider something else. This might sound like heresy, but people do themselves a disservice by staying a teacher when they could make a contribution elsewhere. You still are young enough to start a new career, and retirement is a distant dot on your horizon.
But don’t be too hasty, either. Maybe there is something or someone who can help you get the spark back. It would be a shame to lose you, too, and for you to get out too early, so take time to evaluate this decision. I’m just sayin’, strive to be happy, and if this gig ain’t doing it, then… .
Speaking of getting out soon, this brings me to my peer group. The “old guys.” The “seasoned citizens.” We have seen that hill and crossed over it, and are on the downward slide to home. More and more, our co-workers are the same age as our own children. More than once we have read the stuff in the mail about “preparing for the Golden Years.” More than once we have checked that web site about what our monthly would be when we finally hit the door. Yes, that big “R”, retirement is more than a dot on our horizon. It might be a huge, looming question mark to some, a beckoning archway to others.
Our challenge is different. It may be a year or two or several before we can close this chapter in your lives. We are rounding third and heading for home and it looks like the throw is going to be up the first base line. Safe!
So maybe we can afford to ask ourselves some questions, like “How can I make these last few years in the game most worthwhile, and “How can I use what I have learned in the trenches for the benefit of not only the students I see but the people I work with?” All this time inside schools has to have been worth something, other than a pretty good career. Do I just play out the string, or do I kick it in for the stretch drive? And perhaps the most important question of all: How can I sneak out quietly and avoid those boring retirement dinner speeches?
Thoreau wrote that “the mass of men live lives of quite desperation.”
That has always struck me as sadly pessimistic. But it can happen, in this business as in any other. And although I haven’t always succeeded, it’s worth the effort to try to walk on the sunny side of the street, to smile even when it hurts, and to look upon a new school year with “quiet hope.”
So here is a final thought.
Take a deep breath. Hold tight to that wheel in the storms. But know that the job’s not all storms. Calm waters and temperate breezes can prevail if you point your bow in their direction.
Good sailing to you all.