Working Full-time this past year at employment outside of the home is new for me. I have homeschooled my children for the past two decades. While undertaking the enormous responsibility of homeschool, I worked a few times as a tutor, substitute-teacher, writer or a retail position. Yet, I was mostly a full-time mom, wife and homeschool teacher. I had grown accustomed to waking to my natural body clock instead of a dreadful 4:45 am alarm. I also had the luxury--many luxuries--of sipping coffee slowly from a cup, eating when I got hungry and going to bed when I decided I was finished for the day. However, the most extravagant luxury I possessed was getting to plan my own time.
This year I returned to full-time teaching in the public school system and everything changed in my life. Teachers have their own unique set of oddities like not being able to easily go to the bathroom when the need arises, having to gobble down a lunch while basically never leaving work, and having a horrendous amount of work to do outside of the work day. Still, many things are common to most people who work for an employer.
Timing is everything: how we spend our time, when circumstances unfold, the commitment we make, and events that take place. Some things happen that we know are going to be on the calendar every year, like holidays, birthday and anniversaries. Other events are once in a lifetime like weddings, graduations and baby showers. Most of our responsibilities are regular and ongoing such as cooking, laundry, housework, yard work, and self-care. However, we are also continually bombarded with the unexpected occurrences of illness, deadlines, repairs, accidents, and requests (not only at work but from those we love).
I am still seeking the balance in life between having a fulfilled private life, a connected family life, remaining friendships, managed household responsibilities, and a strong work ethic. Keeping these 5 goals has brought on full-time exhaustion and I am not sure I am succeeding at a real balance. Is it even possible? I don’t have solidified answers or solutions. This balancing is all still a work in progress but a story theme in a first grade reader keeps echoing in my mind: quitters never win!
My students were reading this story when I had just struggled with wanting to quit my job. I was beyond exhausted. I had lost my joy to go to work. I was no longer functioning at home. And I was emotionally coming unglued. In this state, I was overly sensitive. Incidents that would have been easily brushed off, were taking hold of me like a fishhook. Little comments and circumstances were deeply hurting me. I knew something had to change.
Often a snowball effect takes place. Minor slights (even simply perceived ones) can take a toll when they add up without a person having the ability to voice his or her view. Without any validation, and worst of all, poor communication, resentment can build up. Everyone has their own tipping point. For me, I reached mine after two months of testing students. All teachers are stressed during this time of the year and the pressure builds to look for reasons outside of one’s self for poor testing performance. And I, being the new person, became an easy target to accuse, pushover, or blame.
For me, making an appointment to talk to my human resource manager was the turning point. I was able to speak to someone not in the school that fortunately was not personal friends with the employees. She was able to hear me out and then validate that I had reasonable thoughts and feelings about some of the incidents that had taken place. She encouraged me to make the decision I needed to make but one that would not negatively impact my personnel record. Simply having someone to speak to diffused the major offenses I had felt.
I decided if possible I would complete my school year and then not take another year at the same school. This way I was fulfilling my commitment but also having an end in sight. While things have not changed on my job, I was able to face it with a new attitude. I was no longer carrying around the baggage of every unkind word or unthoughtful action. I turned my focus on the students and my own responsibility to do my best for them. And at home, my family stepped up on doing some of the housework to help me crash into the bed and get the rest I so desperately needed.
I have seven and a half days left. While I am looking forward to celebrating the completion of the school year, it will be hard to look into the precious eyes of my 42 English As A Second Language students and tell them I am not coming back next year. However, I know I have loved them deeply this year, and my hope is I am leaving them with an impression of positive self-worth--the beautiful sense of knowing that they are lovable. Of course, we have learned a lot of academics but the life lessons are what remains. This is my heart and passion of being a teacher. I must now find a place I will be appreciated.
(Photo Credits: apples by marshmallow-child, walking a balanced life by drPankaj, broken by dove3456, all on deviantart)