Monthly Archives: September 2014

I am Good Enough

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

After months of turmoil, I have a newfound peace. Last Tuesday, I had the privilege of shadowing a co-worker and seeing how confident and knowledgeable a behaviorist can be, so I asked her how long she had been doing the job. She told me she had been at this job for four years. I do not know if it will take me four years or more to be good at this job and certainly cannot stand being paid this small amount for four years or more!

Then, it happened  on Thursday. I woke up with an energy I hadn’t had in a long time. The phone rang. I had a substitute teaching job. I had not acted as The Teacher since last May. I acted with a confidence I did not have with my other job during my day as a substitute teacher. Each movement I made was with the familiarity of someone who was accustomed to this environment for the last eight years.

After I completed my day substitute teaching for a local high school English teacher, I went to my other job as a behavior interventionist. During a break, I watched as the grandmother of one of my clients played with her grandson using a chalkboard easel. She told him to write his name on the board. The good-natured boy happily complied and wrote the letters of his name one on top of the other, filling up the entire chalkboard with what looked like scribbles. “No can read that!” exclaimed the grandmother. Seeing the problem, I instructed the grandmother to make him a box in the space she wanted him to write his name in the size it was to be done. She erased the board and drew a small rectangle. The grandson wrote his name in perfect handwriting in the boundaries of the small box. This small triumph of getting this kid to write his name legibly by giving him a visual support made me miss teaching so much.

I began to think of the triumphs I have had in the past years as a teacher: There was a second grader who could not read a word when he entered my class but was able to proudly proclaim, “I’m a reader now!!!!!” within a few weeks. There were kids who people said would never be potty trained who learned to do it in my classroom. I remember recognizing the mechanical engineering talent of a bright young man who the school had labeled as “severely handicapped” and finding various projects for him before finally getting him into the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) program. He deeply needed this confidence boost. I recalled the smiling face of another teacher one bright morning as he greeted me with, “We were meant for this!” There were so many times where teaching was so rewarding. My job now is rewarding as well, but it took me years to feel confident as a teacher. I do not feel confident in my current field and if it paid well enough, I would consider staying to work on this skill for a few years, but the fact of the matter is, I do not want to be away from teaching any more. I miss it. It is where I felt best.

I am not saying I was a perfect teacher. I was not, but no one is perfect. It is where I feel strongest. To feel whole, I need to use my strengths.

How did I come so far from where I felt my best? It started with The Chair Incident in which a student threw a chair out the window. I had cleared the classroom because I knew it was coming, but it was not enough to stop the rumors that I was terrible and could not manage my classroom. After two years at the school, my job was slotted to go to an intern. The following year, at the new school I was at, the rumor mill started again when I had a new aide after Christmas break whose trust I had not yet gained. Rather than come to me with her frustrations, she went above me. I panicked and began collecting letters of recommendation. The district administrators assumed I was unhappy and looking for a new job and called me in for a meeting asking why I would do such a thing. It was not enough for them when I told them I was not looking. It was too late. They saw through my insecurity and I was forced to resign once more soon afterward. Looking back, I see that I was the instrument of my own destruction. I assumed the worst because the wound of what had happened at the last school was yet raw. I was blinded by insecurity and pain. There will be gossipers in almost any work environment but I made the newbie error of not being closer to my superiors than the gossipers. Research shows that superiors tend to promote people based on the faces they see. They saw the faces of the people gossiping, not mine. I have always been able to get a job because I make good first impressions, but I do not maintain this impression because I forget about the person who hired me shortly after I give them a thank you card after the interview. What I failed to understand is that I was never hired by the principals nor the program specialists or fellow teachers. I was hired by the directors and I did not take the time to get to know that boss enough to know what made them tick. The truth of office politics is that a person’ job is to make their boss look good, and I went so far as to make the mistake of going above my boss’ head because I thought it was in the best interest of my students. I was wrong. What is in the best of my students is that I feel happy, confident and build a good relationship with my boss, because that is the only way to get the appropriate support, curriculum and materials for my kids. They do not teach you that in school!

I left teaching in hopes of being certified in a new skill that I hoped would make me feel more confident and as if my job would be more secure. Now, I realize I do not need or want another certification on the top of the ones I already have to make me feel happy and assured because, as the saying goes, “Less is more. “ The harder I try to work on things I thought I was lacking in, the more my self esteem is shaken. I will never be happy with myself if I keep thinking I will be good enough if… I get this other certification…or if this or that. I just got to feel good enough as I am and accept myself.

Where does this leave me now? It leaves me at this: I am going to quit my job as a behavior interventionist. The academic year has already started so I would not have much time to prepare my classroom if I did find a job as a teacher and frankly, I need a break as I haven’t taken a real vacation in maybe eight years. I am going to sub and save up and then travel for a few months. By next school year, I will have a teaching job again. With some research, a lot of saving up and hard work, perhaps I will open my own school one day, a school where getting the supplies and support I need won’t involve schmoozing with the boss because I will be the boss and where students will feel this enthusiastic about learning: . Who knows?

Embracing Uncertainty and Adventure

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when nothing is for sure

It’s begun again: change. I have applied for a 15 day course in San Francisco on directing tours. The school has an excellent job placement program. I’ll be matched with companies to apply to become a tour director upon graduation. I called the school where I am currently a post- grad student this morning and asked if I would be jeopardizing my standing in their program if I was not ready to start my class I registered for in October. I was told that I would remain in the program but have to pay $100 to drop the course, a small fee considering most of the cost of the actual class would be refunded to me and I could return at any time. Soon, I will have food and housing paid for me while I travel the world and my paychecks toward my student loans from grad school. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make enough money at some point to rebuild my savings as well. I’m going to do it: quit work and school and go traveling! I can’t wait! I hope that I will learn so much from my travels! Who knows where I will go or who I will meet…the opportunities that I may come across!

I’m wondering if my housemate is angry at me. I waved to and greeted her several times this morning and had no reply. I may have offended her in my last interaction with her when I announced my plans to her. You see, she inspired me to do this in some ways. She is a person who is not afraid of change. She came here from another country and started a new life and career. I told her about my plans only yesterday and her reaction was, “You need to have a plan. What about job stability and security?” It’s funny that a person with a marketing and MBA degree would question my taking a risk. I thought business people take risks. I replied, “ I want to travel!” She says to me, “I had a job that allowed me to go on business trips three times a year once so I did a lot of traveling. You need a long term plan.” In love with the idea of traveling more than three times per year, I scoffed, “Your way is boring! I want adventure!” She defended herself, “ If I were boring, I would not have moved to a different country and started over. I am not afraid of adventure!” Feeling her enthusiasm, I beamed at her with a big appreciative smile and gave her a thumbs up because I was so happy for her. Perhaps that was offensive.

Scratch that. Just got a friendly text message from her. Perhaps I was transferring my own fears onto her…. My fears of leaving the world I know, the life I know for something different.

I never intended to go into teaching when I was a child. I wanted to do something thrilling, more creative and even risky but because people around me looked down upon it, I went into teaching. I fell in love with teaching! It is so fulfilling to know that before you met this student, he could not read or she was not toilet trained….She could not talk and so forth but something clicked and I got to see it happen! I loved it and miss it! Will I ever return to it? I do not know! I am okay with not having a plan! I just want to do something for myself instead of my career and I have enough money saved up to do it. By getting a job as a tour director, I can work to pay off student loans while traveling. I want to feel I am worthy even if I am not a teacher, wife or a mother.

Something I’ve done often over the years is to just choose a road and just travel on it. Some people see no purpose in this and would see it as stupid, unsafe and unprepared. The thing is, I love not seeing what is in the road ahead. I like surprises. I have found so many fascinating places by doing this! This is how I want to live my life! If I tire of exploring; normality, routine, school, career, goals and plans are always still back at home waiting for me to rejoin the rat race.

Travel the World While Paying Off Grad School Debt?

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Last week, two of my housemates were sitting with me at the dining table. The older one told the younger one about how I have never made much money in comparison to her three grown children. The younger housemate then takes out a book she’s been reading and offers to lend it to me for a few days. I spent bulk of the rest of the day reading it: Richard Bolles’ What Color is Your Parachute? (a job hunting and career-changing guide book) even though I had neither conscious desire to find a new job nor to change careers. The next day, I decided that I was thinking way too much about what I had read and the fact that I was reading a job hunting and career change guide with such rigor meant I am probably not as happy as I could be doing something else, but I couldn’t figure out what that something else might be….Except travel, which really is not a job but who knows? Maybe I will meet someone who will help me land a job during my travels? And wouldn’t my travels be limited due to bills I would have to keep paying? On Labor Day, I had a surprise visit from a friend. Hearing of my predicament, she says to me, “You should work on a cruise ship.” Apparently her aunt is a teacher who also took a break from her teaching career for five years working on various cruise ships being paid to see the world. She called her aunt and had me talk to her to learn exactly how she did it. I have begun the steps she recommended as well as a lot of my own research but I keep questioning my impulsive decision. It’s scary to make a decision that may change my life. I want to stay in my comfort zone: at the house I am at, in school and at this job, but I also know that this could be the opportunity of a lifetime to travel the world: see new places and meet new people. My friend’s aunt cautioned that her travels set her retirement back but she felt it was worth the sacrifice. So, I did the math and if I want to retire from a teaching career at 65, I would have to return to teaching at 43 (if I stay in this field), which is over ten years away. This means I have time to travel, study other areas of interest, meet people and experience life without committing to a “real job” because “real jobs” are for steady incomes for people who need that because they have kids and/ or aging parents. I have never been in a hurry to have kids (knock on wood) because I’ve always figured if I don’t have ’em, I can adopt…Give homeless kids a home and not have to race my biological clock. My parents are under 70 and have no health issues… I can do this! I am so scared that I am going to back out! I have an interview next week and I haven’t yet had the courage to confirm the time! Wish me luck!

Related website links to thoughts that made me think:

How Dropping Out Of College Can Save Your Life

 

Wanderlust

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we travel for

travelI found myself on a roller coaster ride this week. One moment, I was enjoying my new life and the next I was longing for something more. I told a few people today that I am going to quit my job and my school and just travel for a few months (as a way of meditating). I just want to make a change and take a risk. I want to experience something I have never done, something that I don’t know the ending to…. My mind kept flashing back to a rainy night at a restaurant during which I was on a date and the guy asked me, “What do you want to do with your life?” He complained that he wanted to leave the rat race, that we’re trained to aim for a career and “become someone” all of our lives, but then you get there, and then what? I didn’t get him then but I get him now. Suddenly, I want more to life than just work. One of my friends tonight told me that I needed to face reality, that I need to accept that school districts will never have enough money, we’ll never have enough aides, and so on on so forth….that I need to take it or leave it. … My thoughts are: I don’t need to decide what my next career move is because if I travel, I can face the still unknown while seeing the world. Perhaps I will blow the money I saved up on tuition on some stamps on my passport and perhaps even a yoga program. Why wait until retirement to travel? And why settle down to a career now? I’m single. It’s the best time to travel. My next steps are the create a budget, select my locations, quit school, quit my job and notify my landlord. Then, I can pack up and go. I’ll spend my tuition on travel and then come back figure out the whole career thing later.wanderlust1