It’s been a year since I gave up teaching, and it seems like the question is coming up more and more frequently of whether I’ll go back or not; it’s actually a silly question to me. You may as well ask me if I’ll ever go back to Mongolia… the answer is, “Maybe… I don’t know. I don’t have any plans to go back, but if the right opportunity came along, it certainly wouldn’t be out of the question.”
Even though I can’t say whether I’ll ever go back, I can tell you that I REALLY miss the teachers. It’s difficult to explain how unique and wonderful teachers are. Working in an office lands me with a lot of people who are under-educated and poorly-informed, whereas with teaching I’d grown accustomed to being the young one, who various colleagues described as “winningly naive” and “precious.” I was surrounded by Master’s degrees and most everyone had decades more experience and disillusionment than I had. Now, I’m surrounded by people who haven’t read books or traveled the world or experienced true stress. It bothers me in an elitest, snobbish way, but it also just bothers me that conversations about politics, poverty, religion, etc… are so completely devoid of true understanding and empathy. The head and the heart find no more elegant blending than exists inside the classroom. And I miss that.
I don’t actually miss the students very much. I know… you all think that I ought to be all melty inside over the special snowflakes I got to teach, but those of you who think that have not tried to get 35 teenagers to sit quietly and read. All normal classroom irritants aside, I will say that the one thing that pushes me over the edge of Why-the-hell-would-I-miss-those-jerks-?- is the amount of time I spent in my last two years of teaching fighting phones. The classroom drastically changed during my 7 years. Drastically. Being in a room with 35 kids isn’t the same as it was when I started, so what I miss is kids pre-Smart Phone, because they were human beings, albeit confused, awkward, arrogant, human beings, but they made eye-contact and enjoyed interacting with others. That sort of student was almost completely extinct when I quit.
I actually don’t miss the vacations. I get asked about that one a lot. Having a Fall break is nice, but being able to pee whenever the hell I want, is priceless… always having an hour for lunch… being able to walk outside whenever I’m tired of sitting… all more valuable than getting summers off. Teaching is like trying to cut 2 mins/mile off of your fastest training pace for race day, then not running at all for several weeks, then trying to cut another 3 mins/per mile off of an uphill marathon. The pace of my life outside of education is leisurely. I don’t even feel like I need a vacation with all of the time that currently exists throughout my workday – not even exaggerating.
I REALLY miss talking about books and how to write. I miss showing kids how to do things and helping them feel like reading is okay. I miss helping them find a confidence in their ability to offer something to their peers, teachers, parents, etc… in writing. I loved helping kids understand the difference between analysis and synthesis. I miss advising them on how to respect and communicate well with people they don’t like. In short, I miss teaching, coaching, and mentoring.
I REALLY don’t miss being responsible for, evaluated on, and expected to master the skill of controlling outcomes that are completely outside of my control. Working in an office has calmed my life in ways you can’t possibly understand until you’ve been graded on whether or not a kid who doesn’t speak English is able to pass a test in English, even though he’s only attended 20 days out of the last 50 days of school, and prior to that, he lived in another country… even though he never even learned to read and write in his native language. Since leaving education, I sleep better, drink far less alcohol, exercise more, and feel at ease. Not only is the pace of education unsustainable, but the expectations are impossible. At my current job, I am evaluated on punctuality, dress code, and the completion of tasks. Not to get too far into the money thing, but I also make the same amount of $ as I made teaching.
Will I ever go back?
I honestly don’t know. I loved that profession, and it shat all over me. And yet, I have an affection for it. My love of the classroom will probably always be a part of me, but I’m not sure I’m willing to entrust myself to it again. I spent my 20s on education – studying it in college, and then laboring in its field. It wasn’t a waste of time or lost time. I just want to spend my 30s on something else. Maybe I’ll go back to the classroom in my 40s. Maybe I’ll even teach overseas before that. All I can say is that it would be a waste for me to go back right now, and I can’t imagine anything worse than feeling like I’ve wasted the life I’ve been given.