Monday, July 27, 2015

Why I Took A Break From Teaching

Recently I have read lots of blogs and have seen my share of You-Tube videos of teachers quitting the profession in a blaze of final glory where they (usually) profess their love for teaching, but feel they are forced to leave teaching because of real and valid struggles that the field of education is facing. This is not one of those blog posts. My story about taking some time off of teaching is more about everything than one thing. 

It all started when I had stabbing pains in my stomach. As in, doubled over, put me out of my misery, pain. After some frantic googling (in between fierce bouts of pain and labor style breathing, because that is the only medical thing I could think of) and some time with spent on “medical” websites, I diagnosed myself with appendicitis. I knew that was not good and it might require a hospital visit. As I was mentally planning what to do with my children, which substitute to try to finagle at the last minute, it dawned on me that this would be a break. All the things I do in a day would mostly be the responsibility of someone else for at least 1 - 3 weeks. I was in excruciating pain, but it sounded like a vacation, granted I would have stitches and bed rest, but I could also take a nap and get a full 8 hours of sleep (in a row). 

It turned out I just had a nasty strain of the flu, but I knew I had to make changes when an appendicitis and surgery was preferable to my actual life. 

Later when I was asked, I could not point the finger at one thing that was too much. I could handle parenting, I could handle lesson planning, I could handle getting my kids ready for school, I could handle communicating with parents, I could handle getting my kids to all their activities, I could handle data collection, I could handle making dinner, I could handle developing resources for my classroom, I could handle my husband working late almost every night, I could handle toddler meltdowns, I could handle professional development, I could handle reading bedtime stories, but the real problem was I just could not handle it all together. As in - All. In. One. Day. Everyday. I am not sure if that is a failure on my part or a the failure of a society where it is an expectation that a person could and should do all that (because people, I was tired). I am sure the cause lies somewhere in between.

So I tried lot of things. I tried making a schedule, but the fact that there are only 24 hour in a day and I need to sleep during some of those hours kept getting in the way. I tried organizational tips found on Pinterest. I tried making freezer meals. I tried not sweating the small stuff. I tried so many things that trying something new became the new “one more thing”. I finally had to come to terms with the fact that I am just not a “Pinterest Perfect” person! I had to admit that at that season of life, I just could not do it all. As a dug deeper I realized all the Pinterest perfect people I knew might not actually even have a perfect life (although many of them did an admirable job playing one on Facebook). 

Ultimately, I decided that I had to make changes that did not involve surgery and a major illness as the relief I was longing for.

The short story is that I decided to take a leave of absence from teaching to be home with my youngest daughter and a more present mom to my school aged children. It is true that having 3 children ages 8 and under was hard. They want to be fed 3 times a day (plus snacks). Every. Single. Day. Not to mention clean clothes, homework help, bedtime stories, bike rides, and endless games of Uno (we play lots of Uno). 

The longer answer is somewhat more complicated. I am blessed to teach at a wonderful school, with supportive administrators, lots of opportunities for growth and leadership, an awesome PTO, a fabulous staff, and a terrific group of students. I also really just love teaching. It all sounded wonderful, but somehow everyday I managed to come home so beyond exhausted that the thought of microwaving frozen peas for dinner with a screaming toddler hanging from my leg overwhelmed me. I knew I needed to slow down and live the life I had built instead of wishing for it to be Friday, the weekend, time to sleep, or anytime that was not in the moment that I was in. 

And just like that, like the Hokey Pokey says, I took my whole self out.