(The following post has been the hardest thing I've had to write in the past 8 years.)
I am a teacher.
Every time I walk into a classroom, I walk out knowing that the people in that room have learned something new. Words cannot describe the feeling of accomplishment that gives.
For a teacher, that's incredibly addictive. It's why we put up with low pay, budget cuts, No Child Left Behind, piles of paperwork, security checks, and much more.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of ways to curb addictions. The stuff I just mentioned can be more effective than methadone with getting teachers to kick the habit of enjoying their jobs, but this year I've noticed some tell-tale signs that I'm suffering from something worse than all of those things combined:
I've seen burned out "teachers" before. Ones that cut every corner they could (whether or not they should), gave the same lessons every year, and lived only for the weekend and summer vacation, where they could do anything other than walk into a classroom.
I don't want to be that person. Ever.
I need a change. A change of location, a change of work environment, a change of job description, a change of something. I don't know for certain what the change needs to be, but I do know that I can't keep doing this.
I need a job where I can be truly inspired, do what I love to do, and get a living wage for doing it. For 8 years, that job for me has been teaching art. I'm passionate about it, the kids seem to like it, and the classroom teachers will often participate along with the students. Just a couple of weeks ago I had a 4th grade teacher tell me I'd just taught her the best lesson she'd ever seen me do.
I am a teacher.
Every time I say those words my chest swells with the feelings of pride and fraternity (or gender neutral equivalent) that are shared by firefighters, police officers, and soldiers. This is not something I want to give up.
This is not something I'm going to give up, either.
I will not leave the classroom, but I will most likely be leaving my current classrooms after the 2008-2009 school year. That gives me one year to explore my options, whether it be a change of employer, job description, or schools.
I'll be weighing all of my options, and while that could include leaving the classroom that will be a last resort. I'd much rather have an art position in a single elementary school or a tech teaching position in an elementary or middle school.
I've been putting out feelers, and it seems if I want to stay with my present employer, teach technology, and earn a living wage, middle school is the youngest age bracket there is. I have not yet looked into other employers, but I will be if for no other reason than to compare and contrast.
There's a lot about the year after next that is totally up in the air. As I start to get a handle on what I want to do and what I can do, I'll let you know.