A few years ago, I packed up my classroom, and quit teaching for a job in corporate america. However, despite this career move I am and always will be an educator. I loved the small moments with my students when they would tell me a secret or a dream, because I knew how much I meant to them and how hard I had worked to gain their trust. Those killer lesson plans with my teaching team and literally everything I made with my Cricut machine. I loved the recess squabbles. The lunch break adult conversation. The parents that believed in me, as I believed in their child. The vertical and horizontal planning. The 2nd grade drama. The historical figure wax museum. I loved it all. I loved teaching and I loved wearing the title of “best teacher.”
What I did not love was that being the best teacher meant losing the other parts of myself.
I remember my first day of my first year when I showed up with personalized pencils for each of my students, and a shiny new badge with my shiny new smile. An experienced educator came to greet me in my room before my students got there and said, “You will give this your all, and you will be great. But make sure your life comes first. In the event that you dropped dead on the way into work tomorrow, the district will be calling for a sub before you even hit the ground.”
I remember thinking that I would never be cynical, and that I would find ways to beat the teacher burnout. And I did. I was and am still not, burned out or cynical. I practice self care just like everyone should. What changed was my prioritization, and my respect for the teacher I once was.
You see, I was an excellent teacher. People say that, but I really was. I changed the course of my students lives’ on a daily basis. For the students that I was told were unable to learn, I grew them anyway. Far beyond where anyone thought they would go. I discovered hidden affinities, and made parents fall in love with their children all over again as they watched in awe. Every night I spent hours making phone calls to parents, and DSS, and social workers, and clinicians. I researched new strategies for my special education students in various journals late into the night, and scoured Pinterest looking for anything and everything to engage my students even more. I stayed late at night if a parent needed to hear more reasons that their child was worthy, and more ways that they could help their child thrive. As an educator, I was great. I was the teacher I would want for my own children.
Then I became a wife. And then I became a mom. I was no longer the teacher I was before.
These new titles are wonderful and challenging just like they are for any person. There is nothing about them that makes me stand out from the crowd. But I knew that if I poured myself, my research, my heart, and my thoughts into my marriage and my children, I not continue to be that great teacher I once was. It’s just simple math, or maybe it’s part selfishness. But I knew that I could not be excellent at all of those parts of me. I could not pour my emotions into my students 15 hours a day, and then have any reserve left to nurture my relationship or my children’s characters. If I continued to be the nurse, superhero, safe haven, and nurturer to my students all day, there were very few of those pieces left for my newborn at home once I finally got there. If I continued being the teacher my students deserved, my children would receive less than they deserved, and my marriage would have been further down on the list that it already is.
When my child gets sick at daycare, I want to be able to drop everything to snuggle on the couch without having to dig into my own family’s pockets to pay for a sub. I want to be able to use my lunch break to attend the poetry reading at my child’s school instead of actually supervising lunch. On my husband’s birthday I want to head in early and leave early to surprise him, without letting down my class. I want to be able to afford quality childcare for my kids to allow me to go to work during the day.
Corporate america can be cold just like people say. But the coldness gives warmth to the parts of my life outside of it.
I am still an employee with full time hours. Every day I commute, and I still take work home at night. I did not quit teaching to stay home. But now I come home with mental energy and vigor. I come home ready for kisses, snuggles, giggles, and adventure. A mind full of date nights with my husband, fort building with my kids, and family taco nights. I remember every first word and first tantrum. The first time I watched my husband with my daughter, I cried. I remember those things because I have the focus, energy, and heart for them. A chance I would not have had if I stayed in the classroom. I am an excellent employee in my corporate job and I am also an excellent (or try to be) wife and mom. I have the opportunity to excel in all the parts of my life.
Once I stopped teaching, I discovered what it meant to put myself and my priorities first.
This job gives me the flexibility and emotional reserve that teaching could not give me. I have great benefits. Paid time to be with my family. Long (I use this term lightly for all my non-U.S friends) maternity leave options. A boss that encourages me to take care of my family first. I have bathroom breaks. There is accessible clean drinking water and coffee. I have the respect of my colleagues with how I use my time and my schedule. I no longer have a heart filled with teaching pride. But as an employee, and a human, I have much more outside of that.
This is not to say there are not excellent teachers who are also wives, mothers, friends, and coaches. There are many and I know a ton of them. I am cheering them on every single day. I also know a lot of teachers who have had their lights burned out. Their fires in the classroom diminished. Their marriages ended. I know those teachers too.
My future students deserved the great teacher I once was. The teacher that made them her world.
I respected that teacher, and I knew that I could no longer be her while embracing the new priorities of my life. Without being that teacher, teaching was no longer for me. If I was no longer the teacher I would choose for my own kids, than I did not want to be teaching anyone’s children and giving them anything less than they deserved. I am grateful for all my students taught me, and the impact I was able to have even in my short teaching career. I am still an educator. But I quit the classroom for corporate america. And my life is better for it. Today, thank your child’s teacher, your high school teacher, or your neighbor who is a teacher. You might just make their day, or give them back a little piece of themselves.
All the best,