Friday, June 8, 2012

It's Not You, It's Me.

Dear Teaching,

We've been in a relationship now for four years. We dated casually in college, and then I decided to commit when I took my job in New Orleans. You've been a major part of my adult life. Yesterday was the last day of the school year, and you know what?

We need a break.

Listen, teaching, it's been great. We've had some good times. You have given me the opportunity to work with over 150 third graders over the past four years. They - and you - have brought me more joy and fulfillment than I could have imagined. The adorably misspelled cards and awkwardly drawn pictures I have upstairs in my den are possessions I will cherish for eternity. I am grateful every day for having had the opportunity to mean something to such wonderful kids and their families.

Here's the thing though: our relationship has changed this year. My life has thrown me into a lot of "new"s - new state, new marriage, new school, new friends - and it's just not working out with you anymore. It's not you, it's me. I've got to get my head on straighter and re-prioritize.

Well... it's also a little bit you, though. Teaching, you are one of the most stressful occupations out there. You require me to spend almost all of my time and a good chunk of my money on you. That was cool for a while, but I'm pretty over dealing with paperwork, pacing guides, and testing. I'm a little burned out, and I just need a change for a while.

Another reason we need a break is that I'm really trying to focus on my career right now. Teaching is great, but I'm interested in expanding into other areas too. I'd really like to explore working in arts integration or museum education, and I can't do that if I'm stuck with you all the time. I would love to work at a school being the arts integration facilitator, or be an education curator for a museum, or work for a nonprofit that brings the arts into schools... there are so many possibilities, and I can't find them all out until I get some space.

Look, this isn't a permanent breakup. I know in my heart that you're the job I'm supposed to be with for the long haul. But some of the best information I got from a coworker this year was this: when I asked how he'd managed to stay so passionate about teaching for 30something years, he told me it was because he never taught for more than a few years at a time. When he got burned out, he went and did something else for a while. It's enabled him to stay enthusiastic, engaged, and excited about teaching for longer than I've been alive. I know that if I stick around a few more years feeling the way I've felt this year, that will be it for us. And I don't want that to happen.

Sure, I'm nervous about the future. This is the first time I'm ending one phase of my life without knowing what the next phase will hold. I'm more than nervous, actually. I'm flat-out scared.

But that fear is also sort of weirdly exhilarating. I know that if Hubs and I had stayed in New Orleans, I'd probably still be very happy with you at my old job. But I'm not there, I'm here - and the fact is I need something else right now, something you can't give me. I don't know what that is at the moment, but maybe the not knowing itself is it.

So take care of yourself, teaching. Don't let those budget cuts and state standards get you down. Until we meet again, in another classroom down the road, know that you're the love of my life.