I have never liked change. My family and friends all know that I like a routine. I like things the way that they are.
But for a girl who doesn’t like change, I sure have faced my fair share of it. Moving from NYC to the suburbs of Fairfield County with a one month old, experiencing the sudden death of my mom, and being diagnosed with thyroid cancer and having to undergo surgery. Through all of these massive changes, I learned that I am a lot stronger than I thought.
This past Spring, I was dealt yet another major life change – this time in my career. I have been teaching middle school since 2001. I was fresh out of undergrad, 22 years old, and ready to face those moody adolescents head on. I have been teaching ever since and have loved every second of the awkward, uncomfortable, weird middle school years. So when my principal called me into his office in March and told me I would be moved to teaching at the high school, it was like my whole world came crashing down.
“But I am a middle school teacher!” was all I could say. It was as if my whole career was being taken away from me. To those of you that aren’t teachers, moving from middle school to a high school position probably doesn’t seem that different. However, ask any teacher (and I have!) and they will tell you that every grade has its own unique qualities. Asking a middle school teacher to teach anywhere but a middle school is basically like asking a Kindergarten teacher to teach a college class! We all have our comfortable niche in the classroom and my comfort zone was being ripped away from me.
Like other challenges I have faced in the last few years, I leaned on my wonderful, supportive husband and friends. And like a strike of fate, another middle school position opened up in a nearby school district; a highly competitive and sought-after school district. With the support of one of my union reps from my job, I applied on a whim and immediately got an interview. I didn’t know what I was in for since it had been over 10 years since I looked at my resume, wrote a proper lesson plan, or sat in front of a panel at an interview. It was nerve-wracking but also empowering to know that I had a say in my career path, I could make a decision to stay in my area of expertise and continue to do what I loved to do.
When I was offered the job I was excited and extremely anxious. Now what?! Again, my support system talked me through the pros and cons and in the end my dad said to me,
You can’t not take this job because you are afraid of change. That is not a good enough reason.
My husband also echoed these sentiments and with their support I accepted the position and told my current school district I would not be taking the high school position. I encountered many negative responses to my decision to leave the school I had been working at for 12 years. Many people were not supportive and frankly not nice about it – especially my coworkers. Others were in shock that at this stage in my life, and in my career, I would be willing to start over. These attitudes and remarks actually helped me in my decision and I knew that I was ready to make this change and face it head on.
On Tuesday, September 5 I started at my new school, in a 7th grade classroom where I belong. I love the awkwardness of the middle schooler. I love the thrill of teaching American history. I love the role I take on as a mentor and a guide for these kids who are right in the middle of some of the hardest years of their lives.
My new coworkers are all amazing. They are so welcoming, all going out of their way to make me feel comfortable. Sitting in my new classroom after making it through the first weeks of a new school year, in a new district after 12 years, I sit back and smile at how proud I am of myself. With every change I have made in my life, I am learning that I am not so afraid of change after all. The more things change for me, the more adversity I face, the stronger I get. This is a lesson I have taught myself and the teacher in me gives myself an A+!