That’s what one of my closest friends told me a few weeks ago, when she and I were having a heart-to-heart about life. She’s so right. Things have been “off” since August.
Before you get too concerned, it’s nothing super serious, but I have had a mild sense of not feeling like myself. Not depressed exactly, but a mild sense of the blahs that have spilled over into most areas of my life – working out, eating right, blogging, etc. You guys know I’ve been really absent on this blog, only writing very sporadically – I just haven’t felt inspired to write, which is so unlike me. Not that I’ve been going completely off the rails – I get workouts in here and there. I eat healthy most of the time and log most of my meals into MFP. I see friends and family, regularly. But I’ve felt like I’m just going through the motions a lot of the time. Kind of a “fake it ’till you make it” existence, which is so NOT me. I’m a live-life-outloud kinda girl, so “just getting through it” is not a comfortable place for me.
At first I couldn’t put my finger on it. I still had all the same goals for my life – keeping up a healthy lifestyle, getting to my goal weight, spending time with friends and family, generally keeping a positive outlook on life. So why was I just going through the motions? I finally took a long, hard look at my life, and realized that it was the new position I’d taken as a new teacher mentor.
I loved some aspects of the job. Working with the new teachers and helping them navigate all of the aspects of being a 1st or 2nd year teacher. Seeing how instruction is implemented at the 5 different high schools where my 18 new teacher work. Getting to know the principals, vice-principals, and deans at the 5 schools. Working closely with my mentoring partner, whom I worked with at my high school, and whom I respect tremendously. Meeting lots of other mentors who work throughout my county. Learning more about Common Core, ELD standards, equity in education, and great teaching practices. I enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm of the new teachers, as well as their willingness to receive feedback about how they could improve their teaching. Even planning, writing, and hosting the professional development for the new teachers on topics like supporting ELL students, implementing academic vocabulary, new apps and technology for the classroom, etc.
But there were lots of things that the new position entailed that weren’t so great. Like all the driving – in my head I knew I’d be traveling from school to school throughout the day, but until I was actually in the car driving so many miles every single day, I didn’t realize how much of a toll it would take on me. I missed having a home – being at a school where they knew and loved me. I only have two new teachers at my old high school, and I relish every time I’m on that campus because students run up to me saying hello, colleagues offer hugs, and I just breathe a sigh of relief because it’s my familiar. I missed the school spirit – dressing up for spirit week, wearing goofy costumes, donning blue and gold on Fridays for our school pride day. I missed being part of a faculty and having that sense of community on a daily basis. I knew I was a social person, but I didn’t realize just how much I needed that interaction. The unpredictability of my daily schedule was also something that drained me. I love variety and keeping things fresh, but waking up and not knowing where I’m going and who I’m going to see until I check my iCal appointments was off-putting in a way I never anticipated. And the work day was much longer – I usually wake up at 5:30, read and respond to work emails while I have coffee, get ready for the day and leave the house by 8 or 8:30 and drive all around until at least 4:30 or 5pm, then take phone calls and answer emails or do paperwork when I got home. Now I know that might not sound like a long day to most people, and when I was teaching I’d spend the normal school day working and then have to plan lessons and grade in the evenings and weekends, but this new schedule just felt a lot longer to me. Probably because I wasn’t doing what I loved like I did when I was teaching. One the nights we held professional development, which was once a month, we’d work until 7pm. I felt like the hours of this position were all-consuming.
And then there was the conversation with the district administrators whom my mentoring partner and I report to who let us know that next year they expect us to add more “districtwide” professional development to our plans. Which means they expected us to provide professional development to all teachers, not just new teachers on “district initiatives” that they decided for us. When I expressed that we might not be experts in these areas, my boss said, “well then, we’ll send you to a workshop so that you can become an expert.” How would we possibly fit in more than we were doing now? We were both running around like chickens with our heads cut off as it was just keeping up with all we were required to do for the new teachers. When would we find the time to plan, write, and teach these new professional developments? And what if these “district initiatives” weren’t on topics that we believed in? It’s very difficult to teach something that I don’t fully support, yet these new topics would be chosen by the district administrators, not by my mentoring partner and me. I abhor being dictated to and feeling like my opinion doesn’t matter, yet that was the message I was getting. Not being someone to quietly deal with a situation that I hate, I decided to take a stand.
In February I told the deputy superintendent in charge of human resources that I would like to return to the classroom next year. In essence, I was resigning from this position. I didn’t mention the things that made me unhappy about the job; I just told her that I really missed teaching. Which is completely true. Teaching is my passion, and seeing all of those new teachers in their own classrooms made me long for my own room full of students. I am still considered a teacher even as a mentor, I’m still fully fledged in the teachers’ union, retain my tenure and seniority, and I am guaranteed a teaching position somewhere in the district. The unknown was whether or not I’d be able to return to my old school. I had high hopes because there were two open positions in the English department, my former principal wanted me back, and I wanted to return. But HR had to keep me guessing, hoping, praying, and wishing for awhile. Finally, on April 1, I found out that I will be able to return to my old school!! I’m so excited and I know I’m going to go back with a renewed sense of purpose.
I’ll be teaching most of the same classes I have in the past, although I will have two classes that I haven’t taught in about 10 years. I will also be in a new classroom, at my request. The teacher who moved into my old classroom is staying on next year, and I just didn’t want to make him have to move everything. Plus, there were so many things about my old classroom that I didn’t really like – it was a huge room, but it was weirdly shaped, making it difficult to keep organized. The new room has great counters and cabinets, so keeping everything tidy will be much easier. Plus, in the new room I’ll be right next door to one of my favorite teaching buddies, whom I’ll be collaborating with on 4 of the classes. And I love the idea of a fresh start in a new room. I can’t wait to “move in” and decorate it this summer!
It’s hard for me to express the combination of excitement yet calm I feel knowing that I’ll be back to my high school. I feel like I can breathe easier knowing that I’ll be back to doing what I love, working with the people I enjoy, interacting with 120+ students who will be “mine” for the year. Back to having a predictable schedule – knowing what time I begin and end my day and where I’ll be every single weekday. Yet there’s a huge amount of excitement, too – back to discussing texts, helping students improve their writing, planning curriculum with colleagues, and of course, wearing all the goofy, spirited outfits. I’m going to enjoy the remainder of this mentoring position for these last couple of months (I’m done June 5th), and I’ll really relish all the fun that comes with summer vacation, but I am also feeling so inspired for the 2015-16 school year. I have a feeling of peace that I haven’t felt in so long. And I think that’s going to spill over into all other areas of my life.
I’ll write more about my plans for working out and eating right in an upcoming post. If you haven’t noticed, I was inspired yesterday and finally wrote out my 2015 goals and my mantra for the year. I’m not going to promise how often I’ll write, but I will say that I’m planning to write more often than I have been. Until then, I hope you have a happy Friday!