I fought being a teacher for as long as I could remember. My mother is an educator. My aunts are educators. Teachers have always been respected in my family but I didn’t want any part of that. I wanted to be a lawyer. I wanted to wear a power suit and yell objection in a courtroom. I had visions of working in a high profile firm and driving a Mercedes around New York City but when it came to the time to really decide what I wanted to be when I grew up, I chose to go into education. My family was shocked. I went to a university that put future teachers in the classroom the first day of freshman year and as soon as I walked into that kindergarten classroom, I knew that I had wanted to be a teacher all along, I had just been denying it to myself.
I loved my college experience. I graduated with a degree in elementary/special education in 2007 and was eager to get into the classroom. I was a resource teacher at first and then taught a self-contained class made up of students with multiple and severe disabilities. I loved it at first, but it was overwhelming at times. These weren’t like the kids I had worked with student teaching. This wasn’t the kind of class I had envisioned teaching when I was younger. The students had needs that required so much support and behaviors that most people would never understand.
I burned out. Hard. Burn out is a real and powerful thing and something that most teachers don’t want to admit to. It was only seven years into my career and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a teacher anymore. So I took a break. I had been a writer before I was a teacher. It had been a hobby, a way to be creative, a release from the rigidity that was everyday life. But then I got published. First with Macmillan and then with Harlequin and seven years into my teaching career I had seven books published. I had options. I didn’t have to work the job that was draining me. So I quit. I moved closer to my family.
I was going to start this new exciting life but then my little brother died tragically at twenty-three years old.
My world had been rocked.
Suddenly things that had a been a big deal before weren’t anymore. Things that I had thought were life and death seemed trivial. Things I had taken for granted had become precious.
I continued to publish. Those seven books turned into fifteen.I was a working writing. But something big was missing.
My creative outlet wasn’t enough to fill me up. Three months later I started to sub. Then I did a few maternity leave positions. Then I replaced a teacher who left unexpectedly in the second half of the school year.
Before I had realized what happened I was back in the classroom full time. Back with students who had just as many needs as before and back with systems that were still plagued with the same problems. But the passion was there when it had never been there before. I was no longer trying to just get through the day and do enough to satisfy teacher evaluation. I wanted make a lasting impact on my students. I wanted to change things in my system. I wanted to become a leader.
Taking a break turned out to be one of the best things for my career and now I’m more committed to education than ever before.