I’ve been in a relationship for 11 years now (more if you count the courting stages) and it’s been a roller coaster ride.
I’m referring to my teaching career.
For me it was young love. That can’t eat, can’t sleep, reach for the stars, over the fence, World Series kind of love. #ItTakesTwo
I was in 2nd grade and Mrs. Spiegel just made it look so easy, so fulfilling, so perfectly ME. I didn’t break up that feeling for a long time. I dreamed about the days I would have my own classroom.
Then the courtship happened. You know- the “I decided to make this my degree so I’m committed to making this work” phase. I joined the best student teaching experience because I knew that if I wanted to be the best teacher I could be, I was going to need lots of time and energy spent in getting to know the profession before I had my own room.
Like most courtships, there were some rocky times- that oobleck lesson almost ended the relationship for me. There were tears of sadness and frustration and even times of anger. But, the happy times outnumbered the rest, so I was ready to take the plunge and apply.
Once I had a position, the honeymoon phase set in. This lasted about 3 years for me. You know what this phase is like- everything is rainbows and butterflies even when it wasn’t. I loved my job, how could any struggle end it for me?! I had energy and optimism for days.
Entering that 4th year is when the relationship kind of plateaued- nothing was great, but nothing was terrible. Stagnant. It’s hard to be in this phase for long- if you don’t “spice things up” it could be the end of it all.
So I threw in a kid towards the end of the 5th year. Ya know- make things interesting. I loved a challenge and I knew our bond was strong that it could handle a little flexibility while we stretched to include this new member with her needs. We were “okay”.
Year 6 was a little rocky. Things started changing. Demand for “more data”, “more time”, “less fun”, really started to put a damper on that spark that had been there for SO long.
So I did what anyone in a long term relationship that was getting stale would do…have another kid! That would save it!
I was about 1/2 way through my pregnancy when I knew it was time for the dreaded break. Of course this wasn’t a “break up”, just some time apart for us to figure out what we wanted.
I was still working in education, but in a different way. This was a tricky time, I loved the new opportunities and who I was becoming apart from myself as a classroom teacher. But there was always that tug pulling a bit, calling me back to the classroom.
You know when you “take some time” to step away from the relationship and you have that awkward meet-up where you just find yourself back where you were because it’s comfortable? Yup- mine came in the form of a phone call and early termination of my position due to a pandemic.
“It’s okay,” I said, “the classroom is where I’m supposed to be.”
But is any relationship the same after a break? No- you are different and so are they. Longer school day, new curriculum, hybrid teaching and oh- let’s toss a new grade level in there for fun. I also forgot to mention a worldwide pandemic to cause chaos to what should be familiar.
This is when I really started to see a shift in the relationship. Every day became hard. Every day I had to convince myself to commit. This was when all of your friends say, “you’re better off without”, except for me it was my friends, my family, my children, my doctor, my coworkers, AND the voice inside my head.
Why do people stay in relationships that become toxic? Typically it’s because something convinces you that it will be better…or you feel guilty.
“You have a voice!” “We care about you.” “Take care of yourself, you cannot drive a car on an empty tank.” But the promises were mostly empty. More hybrid teaching, higher class size, more data, more time, the list goes on.
You are ready to “find other fish in the sea” and then they slap the guilt trip on you. “Do it for the kids.” The kids are the only reason I’m still here! They are the only light in this dark, dark, time.
So that brings me to this year. Still in the relationship, mostly for the kids and a little bit because quitting on a relationship is harder than you think until you are in said relationship and try. I still have the peanut gallery suggesting other positions, but then it got a little better so I quieted those thoughts. A new grade level, less parent pressure (kind of), a high functioning team at just the right time, and a new batch of those sweet faces who will always, always get me, every single time.
I recommitted myself, mostly happy with this decision because I have a newfound faith that I will not just find the balance, but make the balance. I won’t give up my whole self this time. But like I said, it’s been a roller coaster ride. It has had its twists and turns and I even got off of it for a bit. But I’m hanging on for now even though I know what’s coming, I’m just hoping to enjoy the ride.
To be continued…
Framing your teaching journey as a relationship was a clever tool and you really made it work.
There are lots of feelings in this post and they came right through! Wonderful writing.
On a personal note, I made a mid-life career change (becoming a third grade teacher at 38 after 15+ years in religious non-profits); mid-life career changes can be amazing if that’s what you decide is right. All the best to you on the journey!
I love this because it’s true.
I could go on, but I don’t want to clog your comment feed.
Thank you for your transparency, and for the imaging you provided.
Oh, how well I understand this post! I have almost 35 years in this relationship. I am not sure if I started when you did that I would still be in it for that long… It’s a hard job; it’s a rewarding job. And it’s harder still when the rewarding feelings are overshadowed by the hard.
Wow. I can feel the twists and turns of the roller coaster that is your relationship with reaching in this slice. You speak so transparently about the feelings so many of us have. I might be on year two, but feel lucky to have you be a part of my journey!
I love how you look at teaching as a relationship. I could have written a very similar slice. I’ve tried to leave the relationship and try something different a number of times but it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve made peace with where I am but I never expected it to be this hard at this point in my career. Finding balance is the key and pandemic teaching has forced me to do that.
I loved this, thank you for putting it to words. “when it’s getting stale, have another kid” really made me laugh. Enjoy the ride, including those highs and lows, breaks and marathons. You are in good company on that 2nd grade team!!! Loved reading this rom-com.
The metaphor of teaching as a relationship is so apt. And the question of when the relationship is a toxic one is so poignant. I think it’s one many of us struggle with over the years…..I suppose like most long-term relationships there’s actually a lot of struggles and periods of questioning whether the relationship should continue –and probably therapy, too. (SO many parallels in this metaphor!) I love this line: “I will not just find the balance, but make the balance.” My mother once gave me the advice that sometimes the best way to find balance is to have different things out of balance at different times. Good luck finding the joy.