I always wanted to help people.
I didn’t know how and sometimes I’m still not 100% sure. I also never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Truthfully. I’ve heard it over and over…Q: why are you/do you want to be a teacher? A: “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher!”
I actually didn’t want to be a teacher because it felt so…..cliché. I was always an “outside the box” kid. Never fit in, never necessarily wanted to, so anything that was even remotely resembling banality, I avoided like the plague. This was no different.
I found a love of the arts in high school, drawing, painting, and stage (as a stage crew member since my anxiety would never allow me on the actual stage.) That took me through my undergrad years, where I was going to change the world, one child at a time.
Come to realize changing and/or saving the world pays nowhere near enough to cover loans, car insurance, rent or much else. I was working sixty plus hour work weeks – and while at the time my young body could handle that, I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to do forever.
I found myself working at a live-in facility for children ages 6-22 who had intensive behaviors and needed help in almost every facet of their lives, and likely would as they aged.
I don’t like to speak poorly of people, so I will leave you with this: the education for these children were receiving was lacking, to say the least.
I was angry, I was confused, and I was never given more than a disgruntled shrug from those who could make changes for these overlooked, children – needing education.
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That is when I decided to go into teaching.
Not because I always wanted to be a teacher – but because THIS was how I would change the world. THIS is how I would help people. One “unteachable” student at a time.
The Beginning – My Teaching Journey
Three years, many smiles, many APA style papers, and some tears later I completed my program and was awarded a Masters of Art in Education, with certification in Elementary and Special Education. (Cue The Graduation March)
Almost immediately I found what I thought would be my dream job.A private school for students with cerebral palsy, as the head classroom teacher.
My own classroom, where I would teach these “unteachables.”
I quickly found out that particular school had a lot of strange skeletons in the closets and conducted themselves in a manner of which I refused to be a part of ethically and morally.
I left after year having gained a lot of knowledge specifically in the areas of related services (OT, PT, SLP), which still services me to this day and I am very thankful for.
I moved onto a large urban district where money was and still is limited, and special education is not the top priority.
I was overworked, overstressed and continuously on the verge of panic attacks. I worked there for four years. I worked so hard, through so much stress, and while I surely paid an emotional price, it was worth it in other ways.
- My non-verbal student was talking.
- My 12 tantrum a day student was able to control their emotions and ask for help.
- My self-contained student on a K level was in general education for the 1st and 2nd grade with no additional support.
I don’t take these as a victory for myself, but one I was and still am honored to be a part of.
These were my kids, and my love and teaching helped pushed them to overcome many obstacles!
Life – My Teaching Journey
Fast forward to 2015. I was pregnant with my son, Jack. I had so many panic attacks my doctors were concerned.
Now, anyone who has been pregnant can tell you that overall, you aren’t thinking clearly, but this was significant. Anytime I had anxiety, I couldn’t combat it, and it would quickly jump to a full -on panic attack.
I was left with very little to support myself emotionally, and obviously, wine was out of the question.
I ended up being pulled out of work as of Thanksgiving break, due to a kidney infection that made me unable to trek up the 100 stairs on a daily basis. (I remember my last day bent over in pain, and trying to sit in different positions to find relief…looking back I laugh at the thought of some of those positions!)
I got better, my son was born healthy, and I was on maternity leave until May 2016. It was a fantastic time as a new mom – challenging, but fulfilling. I was determined to be the best mom I could be. And I was! …Until May 2016.
I went back to school and was overrun with problems to fix, unhappy parents, pieces of expensive materials lost (materials I purchased myself), Velcro and lamination supple dwindled down to nothing more than scraps.
To an autistic support teacher, the job is held together by Velcro and lamination, so what a blow that was!
That’s it, I thought.
This summer that resume is going out and I’m getting out of here!
Interview after interview after interview. Some were amazing, some were terrible. All were a learning experience I used to better my approach and do better next time.
Then I had it!
That incredible interview, where they had me fill out all of the paperwork, including that direct deposit slip. All I had to do was wait for the board meeting. It came and went. I gave it ten days before I reached out again. I emailed, so exciting waiting for that reply to give my notice to my current position and take on a new one.
“….I’m sorry, but I am not able to hire you.”
I cried. Hard. Ugly. I cried because I thought I was finally going to have a chance to be a great teacher, but also a great mom, wife, daughter, sister, and friend.
I was going to be offered a job where I could do it all. My stress would maybe not decrease but would change, and I would be able to handle every hat I would need to wear.
CRUSHED…is putting it lightly.
I went back to my stress filled life, with a little extra, and ultra adorable, stress added on and continue to plow through, giving my all to all of my kids. Biological and classroom.
Around Halloween, I was contacted via LinkedIn by a non-profit company who takes care of basically all of the children who receive early intervention, ages 3-5, in the large city I worked in. I was immediately invited into an interview with them and offered a job where I was still IN education, but taking a backseat and mostly thoroughly paperwork as a case manager.
I was all about it.
They even offered me more money than they usually offer people in the position because they really liked me ( and I was so flattered, because not often did I hear how “good” I was at my job.) I politely and apologetically said no, but asked that if my financial situation changed, would I be able to contact them. They enthusiastically said yes! I was flattered and disappointed.
At that time, my district had been on a pay increase freeze, so I was making the same amount for over four years. We got by, but with a new baby and daycare bill, we quickly realized we needed more! About two months later I received an interview confirmation from this same company, which I ignored, because – uh, I never applied for this “Behavior Support” position. I have my certification in Applied Behavior Analysis, and will hopefully be taking that exam next year, but at the time, I was nowhere near ready even to consider sitting for it.
I shrugged it off and moved on.
A few days, maybe a week later something was nagging me about that email. It was actually the day after Christmas, and I emailed asking what this was about. I was told that my first interview for this company was so great, and they found me to be so amazing, they told this other department to bring me in.
Flattered again, I was probably blushing!
Early January I went in for this interview. It was great, and I was offered the job a week later. I couldn’t believe it. It was a lot more money, a new opportunity and I was out of the classroom as a teacher.
For a long time, I wanted to consult, and I FINALLY was given this opportunity. The stars aligned for me in a way that I felt like every job that didn’t call back, said no, that felt like a kick to the ribs – was a rock to climb to find my way up my mountain.
I was at that job for a blissful one year and four months. Believe me when I say it was the best job I had ever had. Co-workers became dear friends. I felt included, smart, and essential to the company and position. I was able to work on my passion for applied behavior analysis and obtain knowledge from people I will forever be grateful for.
BUT…something was missing.
WHAT? How rude to be so discontent in the most perfect job, with the most perfect atmosphere, with the most perfect boss ever?
WHAT?! I know, man. Trust me, I know!
It took a lot of time and reflection to figure out why I was so dissatisfied. I spent a lot of time telling myself that I was fine, and this is what I wanted. I LOVED consulting and building people up.
So why, just why, was I so often looking at teacher openings?
“Oh, just because…”
“Just see what’s out there, it’s not like you’d do anything about it” …were my responses to myself.
Looking back, I just have to laugh. Like, let’s be honest…if you’re looking, you’re not content. And let me be crystal clear.
I was HAPPY. NEVER IN MY LIFE WAS I EVER SO HAPPY AT A JOB.
I loved going to work. Monday was a beautiful word that meant I was back to doing something I loved. What the hell was missing? As I said, I did a lot of reflecting. I often tell myself that “you can’t have everything,” “the grass isn’t always greener,” “you’re happy, so stop thinking you aren’t.”
I Went Back – My Teaching Journey
Now I know unhappiness and discontent do not have to be synonymous. You can be happy, but not fulfilled.
What did I miss?
I missed the kids.
I missed working with them and tracking their progress so I could share it with parents. I missed helping a parent open up their child’s world, to come back into ours and out of their own – so they can connect and have a quality relationship. I couldn’t have this in consulting, as much as I loved that.
In May 2018 I had stopped looking at teaching jobs. I was actually looking for some part-time work as a behavior specialist…and there it was. ” PRESCHOOL SPECIAL EDUCATION POSITION.” Big, bold letters. “Well,” I told myself, “its ten minutes away, why not? They probably won’t call anyway.”
Seriously, this is the kind of district you don’t get calls from because there are 800 other applicants who are;
- Better qualified
- Know someone
- Were a long-term sub for a long time.
Four days after I applied I was asked to come in for an interview. I dropped the phone. No literally, I dropped the phone and had to scramble and hope I didn’t hang up on the person calling.
One interview, and one demo-lesson, one week apart and I was offered the job. I was even told that the director of special education had a list she wanted someone to hit, and was told that she’d never find someone to do that – yet here I was, having hit all the marks. I awkwardly stared at her and smiled like a doofus, because even I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it.
So that’s how and why I went back. I never thought I would.
Some days are hard, and some days I ask myself why I did this?
- I get a hug from a parent at the back to school night because her child used his voice to request something.
- I get a genuine and heartfelt thank you for all I’ve done for their daughter.
- I get a parent who tells me, “she saw me eating and said right to my face, “apple!”.
- I get the email that says, “We never thought she’d make progress, until you.”
As I write, I have tears making it difficult to see the letters on my keyboard.
I always wanted to help people.