Category Archives: teaching

Musings on Career Choices

Musings on Career Choices
Musings on Career Choices

It’s been a rough day in our household. It just hit 2:00 PM, and I have been ready to hand in my “Mom card” since at least 10:00 AM. Evelyn’s had a bad cold for the past week and a half, and mid-Saturday, it blossomed into her first ear infection. (Always, always, she gets over the weekend.)

To make it even better, we had a family here to look at our foster girl, Minka. (That’s a blog post for another time, I am sure.) While we were trying to finalize all the paperwork, Evelyn –who had refused to take a nap– charmed the family with her vengeful screaming for Mama. While that was normal nightmarish Evie behavior at 6 months, screaming for no reason and not napping at all is fairly odd behavior at 1.5 years. It wasn’t until after the family left later that afternoon that Evelyn started to poke at one of her ears.

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(Poor baby finally gave up during a boring movie with Dad Saturday afternoon..)

After a rather enjoyable night where baby Tylenol did nothing to abate the frequent awakenings and crying, we found ourselves in a weekend clinic the next morning. Ironically, once we got there, Evelyn was acting her normal and curious little self, and of course we wondered if we were overreacting and if we really wanted to pay the lovely price for having to go get doctor care on a Sunday morning (especially being out and about while most of the state was doing their last minute Super Bowl Party shopping!). After nearly 2 hours, we were reassured that yes, Evelyn definitely did have an ear infection, and we were perfectly justified in bringing her in when we did.

Now, not only are we dealing with the ear infection, but the lovely side effects of the antibiotics. (Yes, I have given her lots of bananas and pro-biotic yogurt, and no, it hasn’t helped with the runny output of the other end. I am not asking for other suggestions at this point in time because I cannot face going out with this bundle of joyful misery to buy one more thing that *might* help.)

To top it off, she refuses to nap today.

I’m writing this as I let her watch Sesame Street. That recommended “Less than an hour a day of television” that you hear about for small children? Yeah… That’s just not gonna cut it on a day like today. She’s sick, I’m tired, and we’re both needing a distraction that PBS can provide.


I never thought I would say that, but here I am, broadcasting that to the world. I’m expecting a Mother of the Year award coming my way any time now.

It’s days like today, and weeks like the last two, that make me wonder about what I am going to do with myself once this stage is gone. My teaching license expires this summer, and I am really debating with myself if I will bother to renew it. Not because I don’t plan on ever working again, but I am unsure if I can ever teach again. I’ve debated that before on this blog, so this isn’t anything new.

I know there are a lot of women who choose to stay home, or manage to secure part-time jobs/work from home jobs, but with the economy the way it is, and rising costs associated with having a family, I don’t think I will have that luxury. And for the record, my sweet husband does not put any pressure on me to work. In fact, the many times I have suggested it, he’s made it clear how much he loves how Evelyn has grown under my care.

Bu if I don’t teach, what WOULD I do, once Evelyn and her future sibling are older? I don’t know what I would be good at. Not that I was ever an amazing, inspiring teacher. I enjoyed working with my students, and I felt there were times I did a great job, but there was a lot that was frustrating to me about the systems in place. Especially that last year. That doesn’t mean that I don’t miss it, or have moments where I see something in a magazine or on TV that I think, “That would be so cool to share/use with my classes… If I were still teaching/”

I’ve toyed with the idea of going back to school to get a Master’s degree. I’ve always wanted to further my education, but with how much it costs, I don’t see the purpose unless I have a specific target in mind. And let’s not forget, one that could at least recoup the price it will cost to get the degree.

I like to do crafts and cooking and other small hobbies, and people suggest the idea of Etsy or other craft sites to sell what I make, but I just don’t see my work being good enough to really make any sort of a profit, even managing to equal out the time spent on making them.

So, what to do?

While not immediately pressing –Evelyn and her impending sibling will hopefully need me around for a while yet– I DO need to make some decisions soon. And none of those decisions seem easy.



Earlier today, I saw such a stunning little dragonfly. He hovered around for several minutes before I thought to get my phone out to take a picture, and then he was elusive and eventually flew away. Fortunately, I was able to track down a similar picture:

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(Thanks, Wikipedia. What would I do without you in my life?)

He was amazing. Stunning, especially because how translucent most of his wings were. I guess they are pretty common, but I’d never seen one quite like this one before.

Anyways, something about this little guy got me thinking about my writing, and about life in general. And while that direction of thought isn’t necessarily the most cheery, I still wanted to write some of it down.

We got home nearly a week ago from two weeks with our family in Utah. It was a wonderful time. There were lots of firsts with Evelyn- she got to meet several relatives and friends that she had not had a chance to meet yet, first time in REAL mountains, first trip to the zoo… and it was so wonderful for me and Jared to share our most special part of our lives (Evelyn!) with ones that we love.

But coming back from that trip has been harder for me than I thought it would be. We’ve loved our independence far from family, and truly, I think it’s been a wonderful thing for Jared and I to grow closer together as a couple, and now with Evelyn, as a family. But it’s hard. Really hard. I usually do my best to focus on the perks of where we are now, but especially after a good trip with both sides of our family and seeing some dear friends, it is just a fresher reminder of, well, how much easier it would be to have family closer by.

Planning Evie’s Utah party, for instance. I could go “a little crazy” (as Jared puts it) and experiment with some different mediums because there were lots of people around to care for Evelyn while I was having fun with the creative outlet of her party. We’re going to do a little shindig here, too, but it’s not going to be nearly as big of an ordeal, and it’s going to be a nice excuse to have people over to just celebrate Evelyn and spend time with them.

Or a couple of weeks ago, when I had a huge migraine, and all I really wanted was to lay down in a dark and silent for a few hours and regroup until that horrible headache and nausea had passed. But Evelyn and silent aren’t friends. Unless she’s doing something she shouldn’t be, in which case I would not be laying down anyways. I wasn’t going to call anyone here to come and take sweet but crazy little girl- I hate imposing on anyone, but with family, it’s different.

Anyways, back to reflection. Truth is, I don’t know where I’m headed with my life right now, and that’s a little scary. I’ve always had things planned out pretty well, and even with plans changing, still felt like there was an overall direction I was headed. And I used to believe that with enough hard work and dedication, anything was possible. I don’t really believe that anymore… I think a lot of people, especially with our current economic times, would agree that luck plays into things more than ever before. Or who you know, not what you know.

Like how I always really wanted to be a high school English teacher. I really, really wanted that. For years, really. And each year I would do my best to teach what I had been given, and really gave it my all. Even my last year, when I was burnt to the ground and exhausted and needed to take better care of pregnant self, I still had so much responsibility and work that I didn’t feel I could shirk. And, in the end, it still wasn’t enough to get my “dream” of moving to a high school to teach. Which made it that much easier to leave teaching all together at the end of last year.

I think that it was divine intervention, in a way. (Or whatever force of nature you believe guides your life.) I have loved staying at home with Evelyn, and I know it would have been that much harder to make the decision to stay with her if I had to choose between working at a high school and being with her. I’ve debated a lot about going back, and frankly, I don’t think I will. Not anytime in the near future. In order to be a good teacher, I kind of feel like you have to be optimistic and idealistic about your goals and your students. And by the time everything in that last year  happened, that part of my life was drained bone-dry. Pessimism in teachers isn’t good- a little complaining here and there is one thing, but when the teacher is mainly there for a pay check, and doesn’t believe in the system or what they are teaching, there is even more danger that they will turn students away from the essential love of learning, and I don’t want to ever contribute to that.

So where do I go now? I always wanted to write, but the right words always seem to evade me to write a good poem or story anymore. And you can’t really tell a toddler, “Hey, wait here! I have to go write something down before I forget it, so will you please not pull the doggy’s tail or try and eat an electric cord while I am busy typing away on a computer?” And by the time Evelyn is down for her nap, I am usually so tired that all I want to do is veg away at the TV, or I feel guilty about the house not being clean enough and try to rectify it as much as possible.

I love my new found hobbies of crochet and even making cute cards with my Cricut, but I don’t see myself doing a good enough job to open an Etsy shop. And there are so many shops now on Etsy- I often feel like it is too late to make my niche in an Etsy shop or as a blogger or whatever else on the internet.  I am not particularly original or inventive, so my own style is… well, not particularly exciting.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Jared often says we’ll be okay if I don’t go back to work, and he’s great about not pressuring me on that. But with how lame the economy is, and yet the cost of living seeming to continually rise- I just don’t know if we can get away with it. But at the same time, if I am not going to being spending my time with Evelyn, do I really want to leave her for some lame office job that I don’t even like just for some extra cash?

So where does that leave me? Truly, I don’t know. Hence… reflecting…. Hmm.

The first bell

The first bell

Around 5:30 this morning, as I was feeding Evelyn, I had the thought hit me that if life had gone as I planned it would a year or two ago, I would be anxiously getting ready for my fifth “first day of school” today. Of course, life rarely goes “as planned,” does it not? And because it was early enough in the morning, I quickly brushed away the thought.

At 8:55am, I was getting Evelyn’s medicine together for her acid reflux while she was starting to scream in the background, and it hit me harder than I thought it would. 8:55am is the first bell, starting the first class of the first day of school, and I wasn’t there.  I always looked to that bell with so much excitement; I always was so nervous and excited to meet my new students and see what the year would hold (probably more nervous and excited than many of them were!). I was at home, in my pajamas still, waiting for an update on whether our AC could be fixed or not while taking care of my new baby.

There’s always so much potential that first day. A promise hanging in the air of all the things that we would share and learn together.

You can tell me that I’ve got a better job now, and I would agree. After how brutal last year was for me, staying at home with my baby girl is a wonderful change. Just as brutal in some ways, but better, more purposeful, so I don’t mind it that much. I am on my own schedule, with more freedom to raise my child the way I see fit; freedom I could never have with “my” children in the classroom thanks to district and state lists on what they thought 7th graders should be capable of learning. And let’s face it: changing diapers and onesies takes a lot less brain power than grading 130 papers.

But still, I will miss it. I hated those school bells because they limited the time I had with my amazing students, especially last year when we only had 50 minutes together instead of 90. But I’ll miss those bells. I’ll miss the amazing teachers I got to work with; sharing and learning information and teaching styles with them.

Most of all, I will miss the bright, creative, fun, amazing students that I was able to meet every year. For every “bad apple”, there are always more students that can make the classroom a fun, happy place to be. Often, without realizing it, students could teach me, too. I’ll miss sharing favorite stories and poems with them; the exciting and deep realizations students could have in class discussions. I’ll miss their humor, too. There’s nothing quite like the humor of a room full of 7th graders.

Will I be able to go back to teaching one day? I don’t know. There’s many reasons I am relieved that I am not in a classroom today. Being a parent has been the hardest job I have ever done, harder than being a teacher, and still I am content to stay here with my child for now.

But all of those reasons still didn’t stop my heart from having twinges of longing for that first bell of the school year.

Farewell to Teaching

Farewell to Teaching

I have several things that I need to get around posting on here, and I will soon, I promise. But today was a pretty significant moment in my life.

Today, I officially left the public education profession.

I spent most of last week and the weekend organizing and cleaning my classroom to get it ready for whoever will be moving in after me, and getting my stuff organized and packed in a way that I could potentially find it again if I decide to ever go back to teaching. Plus, the person checking us out of the rooms is extremely strict about the condition of the room, so it had to be completely empty of any of my personalized touches before she’d approve it.

(It doesn’t even look like the room I’ve worked in for the past two years at all… In the end, it was only a loan, right?)

(This used to have my name under my room number, but between leaving work Friday and coming in this morning, it was already wiped clean of my existence.)

Packing up four years of my life was more emotional than I thought it would be.

Leaving the school behind? Not as emotional. A few sweet goodbyes from people, a few hugs, a few who asked me to come back and visit with Baby Boothe when she arrives. But really, the official death of my profession was quiet and without fanfare. I think it made it easier for me to not shed many tears.

I turned in my keys to the classroom.

I handed my badge to the Admin Secretary.

And then I walked out the door, and I didn’t look back.

Running, not walking, away from teaching

Running, not walking, away from teaching

When people hear that I am leaving teaching, they automatically assume it’s because I want to be a stay at home mother.

Ironically, one of the biggest reasons I considered teaching as a career was because I thought it would allow me to still work, but have more time with my family, whenever that would happen. An honest confession for you all: growing up, I never really had the desire to be a “stay at home mom”.

Don’t get me wrong, here. The prospect of staying home with little Baby Boothe, at least for now, is more exciting than I ever dreamed it could be. But, I think that there was some serious divine intervention in my life that she is coming at this time, because knowing that she would be here this summer helped make the decision to leave teaching more obvious and clear-cut.

But the true reason I’m leaving the teaching profession:

I have to leave for myself, because the system is broken.

I first wanted to be a teacher when I was in high school. I had a few teachers in particular that were truly inspirational to me, and I saw how they loved their work and their students. They were truly mentors to me, and I wish they all knew it now. In college, the decision became more clear and obvious, and I realized it was more than just a job to me; it was a calling.

I am crying a little as I type this, because there was a point in my life that I thought I would never want to do anything but be a teacher.

I loved teaching. I loved watching my students “get it”. I loved (most of) my students. I loved sharing beautiful poetry, tense short stories, and exciting novels with my kids. I loved getting to know my students and watch them grow throughout the year as better readers and writers. I especially loved this time of year where we would have conversations about what they learned about writing, and they would proudly pull out their favorite project of the year and excitedly explain to me what they learned by doing it. I loved how students would declare at the beginning of the year, “I hate reading. I never like the novels we read in class.” And before they knew it, these same students were begging to read the next chapter of The Outsiders, or they had finished The Hunger Games early and asked if it was okay to start Catching Fire on their own. (Picture me rubbing my hands together here and giving a little evil laugh). I even loved most of those crazy things they would say and do that would make me laugh out loud when I retold the stories to Jared that evening.

This year, those things I loved so much were almost completely gone.

The government and state have shown how much they value education, which is precious little. That meant that time with students went down, while number of students and classes went drastically up. I went from teaching roughly 70 students to 120 students.  90 minutes daily with these kids went down to 50. And state testing standards/expectations just got more ridiculous.

First of all, trying to give meaningful, constructive comments and criticism on 70 papers takes time. When you nearly double that number, the hours of grading go up dramatically. As any good writing teacher knows, there’s not a shortcut or mnemonic device to help you be a good writer. It a process. It takes multiple drafts, revision, editing. It takes time and effort.

I know that it’s nothing new for a lot of teachers out there. Many have dealt with shorter times and lots of students for years. But those 90 minutes were absolutely beautiful and precious to me. My district was DOING IT RIGHT, investing in their students’ future by giving them valuable extra time for math, reading, and writing.

For many of my lower students, that was the difference between feeling like they could be writers and readers, or shutting down completely. We could conference one on one, discuss particular things that they enjoyed or were worried about in their writing. I could ask them what book they were reading, would they recommend it, why, and if they wanted any suggestions for when they were done. We could sit and discuss the beauty of a poem, and how it related to the novel we were reading or world around them, because spending 15-20 minutes to let THEM share what they noticed was not taking away from “Core Curriculum Standards”.

So, so many of the exciting things I wanted to do with my students fell to the wayside because we just “didn’t have time.”

Funny, how the other day, we had an activity at my school that shortened each class period by about 5 minutes. As one of my average, normal students was leaving to go home at the end of the day, he turned to me and said, “Wait, we only lost five minutes of class? It just felt like so much more, for some reason. I wish I had more time in here today.” I nodded, and before I could decide if that comment made me want to hug him or made me want to cry, he walked out the door.

Many times this year, little things that I could brush off my shoulders quickly started to stick like a nasty case of dandruff. The millions of monotonous meetings  and tasks that took up precious planning and grading time were too much, because I was still losing hours of sleep every week trying to make it all fit at home. The emails of parents angry that “This year in LA hasn’t been like last year” stabbed me to the core. When over half my students didn’t show up with their homework assignment, (they had a week to find a poem or song they liked and bring it to class; it could have been typed or hand-written), I was crushed with disappointment. And the morning sickness and fatigue of pregnancy didn’t make it any easier, especially when you are afraid of telling people why you really do look like crap. (How many times after I DID start letting people at work know was I asked, “Oh, really? Was it planned?”  If looks could kill…)

Ever seen this go around on Facebook? It’s completely true. I have lost track over the past year that I have gone out of my way to give up my lunch time daily to get kids in to work on an assignment, or before or after school, and still haven’t “Done enough” according the the parent who emails the principal to complain while CCing me on the email as an afterthought.

Every time something happened in my school that shouldn’t have happened, every additional favor or task I was asked to do, every parent email I had to write or respond to, extra paper work that wasn’t supposed to be mine, nearly overwhelmed me.  Daily, my sweet husband told me when I needed to vent, “It’s not personal.”

Angrily, I reminded him that teaching IS personal. Almost every teacher I work with devotes hours and hours of unpaid time because THEY LOVE TEACHING STUDENTS. We even love the awkward middle school ones, who aren’t as sweet as elementary kids, and not as mature and capable as the high school kids.

It was personal, and it was making me constantly physically ill and more stressed. My immune system had been low all year because of stress, but was even more drastically affected because of the pregnancy. By mid December, I knew that I would not return to teaching middle school, and was trying to decide if hanging in there to apply to high school was even worth it. (Turns out, it wasn’t.) But I didn’t quit like I desperately wanted or needed to, because I didn’t want my students to be affected by the mess it always is when a teacher leaves mid-year.

As I said earlier, the impending birth of my daughter has been the biggest blessing in this whole ordeal. If I didn’t know that I would have her, I might try to cling just one more year to this broken system, in hopes that it would “get better.” But I’ve seen what happens when people chose between their jobs and their own families. I’ve taught those kids several times. I’m putting my family first.

Daily, something happens that reminds me why I am so glad I made this decision. I will miss some of the amazing students I have taught and the incredible people I’ve gotten to work with, but I have never felt better or more confident in a decision than I do in this one to leave teaching.

Does it mean that I won’t be working at all next year? I don’t know. I’m looking into different options right now for extra income. If those don’t work out, I will stay at home, and I will not regret the decision to leave teaching public education.

Will I ever return to this profession? I don’t know. Maybe if some of the problems get fixed, I could go back. But until then, I am running, not walking, away from teaching, and I’m not looking back.