I finally resigned from what I thought would be a defining and fulfilling career as a classroom teacher. For the last four years, I’ve received a letter about extending my leave of absence another 12 months, and I always renewed it and tucked the letter away in a “teaching stuff” file.
For a while I hid under the warm, fuzzy haze of denial, pretending that one day I’d be ready to commute from New Jersey to Coney Island for 8am classes. For a while I hemmed and hawed, Oh sure, I could do it. We’d hire someone to take the kids to the bus and put them in aftercare. For a while I forgot what it was like to grade essays and exams and plan lessons and fill out paperwork and stay late for meetings and collapse at the end of the week. But I always knew that it wouldn’t work. And because I’m in the lucky position of having the choice – I didn’t make it work.
The hardest part of finally tapping the impersonal NYCDOE link, filling in my file number and clicking “resign” was that I had to admit that I just wasn’t that into it. My passion for classroom teaching had faded enough that I cried a few tears and was grumpy and growling around the house for a day, but I still resigned. I had to admit that maybe what I always thought was a calling was actually just a job.
Because really, if it was about life’s passion and a need to share the life-altering power of literature and communication, I would have taken classes to teach in New Jersey. I would have kept up with classroom volunteering wherever I could find it. I would have read more education publications and kept up with best practices and devoured more books.
Because really, the side-long glance excuse of “I don’t want to deal with parents like me” is half-hearted, at best. I’ve dealt with overbearing parents and desperate parents and parents who were willing to fall just short of bribery and threats to raise a grade or forgive a transgression.
Because really, I enjoy the autonomy of running a small business and volunteering a whole lot and following passions that don’t depend on a relationship with a paycheck. And people like me fill in a lot of gaps that government checks and schools and churches and other parents can’t or won’t. And that’s okay. And that’s good. And that’s what a village is all about.
Because really, attaching my entire identity to a career I believed defined my self turned out to be not all of me. I have found I can teach in many ways. And sometimes people listen and learn even without the motivation of a grade. And sometimes they don’t. And then sometimes they do.
Because really, having a choice may feel unbearably difficult, but it’s the easiest thing in the world.