Monday, October 8, 2018

The Simple Teaching Movement

Back in January, I wrote a post titled "The Last Post" where I shared with you that I no longer got any joy from maintaining Eat.Write.Teach. and it was time for me to move in a different direction. Since writing that post in January, my life has changed in several big ways, all for good. I would like to share one of those changes with you, for those of you who might still pop by from time to time, or those of you who stumble across this space for the first time.

My second son was born in April. With the timing and circumstances of his birth, it made the most sense for me to end my school year in April and allow my maternity leave to just run over into the summer. There was a problem with this plan, though. Before I knew I was pregnant, my school theatre program (of which I was in charge) had committed to producing Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music in May, the first big musical our theatre program had done in eight years. The birth of my son coincided with those final weeks of preparation. I spent the second and third trimester of my pregnancy frantically trying to pull together this musical with assistance from the choral director and a whole lot of help from the students I was supposed to be leading. Running myself ragged during this time led to some health concerns, but I didn't let that stop me from going and going. That show needed me, those kids needed me, my school needed me, my health be damned. By the time my son was born, I was completely exhausted, but I was also relieved. Now I could go on maternity leave. I could recover and I could get to know this new little person and I could work on those early motherhood skills (it had been three years since I'd had a newborn in my home).

Those are all of the things I should have done.

I should have never went back in that school building.

I should have taken care of my healing body.

I should have spent lots of time with my tiny newborn.

I should have put my needs and my family's needs first.

Instead, one week after my C-section, I found myself standing on the stage of the high school auditeria, answering questions and putting out fires. My mother had to drive me there because I wasn't even released to drive yet. I was still taking strong pain medication. My tiny newborn was strapped to me in a Moby wrap. My baby and I worked our way through early breastfeeding in the back corner of a darkened auditeria. I spent the time I should have been sleeping scrambling to make this musical happen. I continued to put myself and my family on the back burner. I'm quite lucky that I did not have any major health setbacks during this time.

You know what they say: hindsight is 20/20. In retrospect, this is the most ludicrous thing I have ever done. Why did I do it?

I did it because I had no concept of work-life balance.

I did it because I felt immense pressure from outsides sources to make that musical happen.

I did it because I felt some extreme teacher guilt.

I did it because I felt like there were forty or fifty kids who were counting on me.

I did it because my name was attached to that play, to the program, to that school, and I didn't want to make a bad name for myself or that school or those kids.

I did it because my teaching life had spiraled wildly out of control.

Something had to change.

As all of this chaos came to an end and I was able to finally start my maternity leave, an opportunity presented itself in the form of an open English teacher position at a very unique, highly innovative middle school in a different district. If I got this teaching position, I felt that it would have a huge positive impact on my teaching life and on my personal life. I loved the idea of going to a school where I would be challenged to grow as an educator and to bring my own personal brand to my classroom. The idea of switching from teaching high school to middle school was intriguing to say the least. Perhaps the biggest hurdle - but also one of its selling points - was the location. It was thirty miles away, in a different county. While this meant I would have a much longer commute - I lived only fifteen minutes away from my former school - it also meant that I would be forced to practice a work-life balance. It wouldn't be so easy to pop in on the weekends, to stay very late or arrive very early. I would have to manage my time well, and I would have to simplify my teaching life so that my time at work was purposeful and productive. I would not be able to waste any amount of time. I would have a forty minute commute each morning to mentally prepare myself for my teaching day, and I would have a forty minute commute home each afternoon to work through my day and leave it behind so I could be fully present for my boys and my husband when I got home. I knew this change would present its own unique challenges, but we grow from challenge. It was time for me to grow in a different direction. I applied, I interviewed, and I was offered the job on the spot.

I should be clear about something. I truly thought that I would be at my former school until I was ready to retire. I wasn't unhappy until I saw that my life as both a teacher and as a person could be so much better. I had to take a risk and hope it would pay off.

We are now a quarter of the way through the 2018-2019 school year, and I can say confidently that I made the right move. I have no regrets at all, but I've had to learn the fine art of simplifying to make this work.

I've started a new chapter in my teaching career, and I'm learning new things along the way. So, as I did in 2012, I'm starting a blog about this journey. I'm not staying at Eat.Write.Teach. because it is part of the overly complicated teaching life I was leading Before. I need a new space for After, a new space for my simplified teaching life. My new space, The Simple Teaching Movement, will be going live soon. My goal with this new space is to reflect along my journey and share the tips I discover and (completely free) resources I create in my endeavor to simplify my life as an educator.

We have the power to turn around our teaching lives and to create a meaningful educational experience while also living a life of intention. Will you join the Movement with me?

As soon as the new site is live, I will post the link here.

Happy(er) Teaching!