Thank You to Teaching
We balked when the Career Counselor at my college told us that the average person changes careers – not just jobs, but careers – 11 times in their lifetime. I remember thinking that this number was a little drastic. However, in the decade since my college graduation, I have already had 3 different career paths, and I am studying for my 4th.
My past career lasted for four years. What a crazy four years! I want to take some time to thank my teaching career for all that it has given me.
Dear High School English Teacher Career,
I was warned about you before we met. I was told you would be draining, and I was told I probably would not sleep. These things were true, and I will not miss you for these reasons. You’re not sustainable. However, you taught me some valuable skills and life lessons that I wouldn’t have ever learned otherwise:
I learned how to work hard. I worked very hard in high school, college, and in my first two careers. However, it was always work that, while overwhelming in its own way, eventually gave breaks that allowed me to recharge. You, on the other hand, did not let me rest. I was “on” all the time, which pushed me beyond the bounds of what I thought I was capable of. I learned to do one thing at a time and let go of being perfect. I learned to balance a million tasks and not let myself be paralyzed by the sheer amount of things left to do. In fact, you remind me more of my first job at a coffee shop, closing, exhausted while washing endless greasy dishes and then having to clean up again after the inconsiderate late arrivals, turning off my own emotions to provide customer service with a smile. Again, unsustainable, but useful to the extent that I now know my limits. I say no to what I can, and hold loosely what I cannot. I prioritize, and in your case, that was always the students’ learning. Did I get every random administrative task completed on time? No. But was I prepared for making each class the best for learning, to the best of my ability? Always. I don’t regret that. Their learning was the best part, anyway. Grading sucked, and dealing with administrative tasks let’s not even talk about, but researching and developing the plan for the class, seeing how it connects with students, seeing faces light up with understanding, seeing tangible growth, then quickly shifting gears and flexibly changing up the plan if it isn’t working – this is thrilling. I felt alive and whole-hearted. Thank you for this rewarding challenge that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
I discovered my love for my next career. You provided me with the motivation to research how to make my administrative tasks easier, more efficient. I developed projects and homework using technology that would help me grade it faster (and avoid plagiarized work from students). I completed administrative tasks with more accuracy and ease because I developed materials and even an Excel program to help me keep track of things. I researched those skills and discovered along the way that I felt a sense of “flow” while patiently working on a tedious, problem-solving-heavy, technology-based solution to whatever I needed. I can only compare it to getting lost in a good book, or perhaps writing an essay. Difficult, deeply satisfying fun. I might have arrived at this conclusion eventually, but you provided me with the need that led to this discovery.
I love literature, I love writing, and I love reading. Thank you for reminding me (again) how fun it is to analyze and appreciate the beauty of literature, and to be able to share that love with others.
I don’t think I want to be in a job that is so emotionally draining ever again. I never really felt like you valued the contributions that I made, but I don’t blame you. The education system is soul-sucking in so many ways, and I was just one more casualty on a long list. I am thankful for the individual students who expressed their appreciation and feedback, and I am thankful for the lesson that learning is a life-long endeavor.
Let’s just be friends.