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Hard Decisions

I've been debating on whether or not I should make this post and discuss something so personal.  Since the beginning of the school year, I've had to make some tough decisions about what was best for my family and my career.  It seems like this is a year where a lot of teachers are struggling.  The demands seem to be increasing while the support and resources are decreasing.  I read a blog post yesterday from a sweet blogger {here} that touched my heart and encouraged me to tell you guys my story.

Many of you know my husband is a Marine, and we recently moved to Hawaii.  Being a Marine wife means we move pretty frequently.  It's part of the job description, but it can be super discouraging when I think about how it impacts my career.  Since we're moving so often, I can never reach tenure (if that's even available anymore) or have seniority.  I'm constantly starting over.  Just when I've hit my groove somewhere and made friends, we up and move again.

When we moved here last December, I did everything I could to find a job and find a job quick!  We landed here on Dec. 12th and on Dec. 26th I was offered a job that I accepted.  Unfortunately, there was a lot I didn't know about the school systems here in Hawaii.  I had said I would be willing to commute, but I didn't realize you have no transfer rights until you get tenure (at that time it took 4 semesters and 1 day to get tenure).  I wish I had known I was committing to commuting for 2 full years, because that would have been a huge factor in my decision.

Nevertheless, I accepted the job and gave it my best effort.  The situation wasn't ideal.  Picture a hoarders classroom with 2 teachers, 2 paras, and a Title 1 coordinator who had an office that took up about 1/4 of the classroom.   Take this picture and imagine it for an ENTIRE classroom.


That's what I walked into, and it was awful.  The clutter made my anxiety skyrocket and that was just by walking into the door. 

By the end of the school year, my husband and I spent hours and hours talking about whether I should resign.  However, resigning in Hawaii would mean I would have to do the ENTIRE hiring process over.  I would have had to resubmit all of my transcripts, references, licenses, etc. and go through the DOE initial interview over again.  Then they would release my name back out to the principals, and I'd hope for the best.  In Hawaii, you can't just apply to a school and no job openings are listed online.  

After a lot of discussion, thought, and pro/con lists, I made the decision to go back to my school for this school year.  I spent all summer stressing about it.  I was able to move into my own classroom, and I was hoping that would make a world of difference.

Being in my own room was helpful, but there were a lot of other issues.  My case load was pretty intense with some very high needs students.  There were a couple of students who were physically aggressive, and I felt like I was getting beat up everyday.


I felt like I was getting beat up, because I was.  There was hitting, kicking, spitting, and biting like this bite up above.  It was mentally draining and exhausting.  My admin provided support and were aware of what was going on with the high needs students.  They were present and did a great job of giving me aides to help.  More bodies in the room didn't fix the problem though.  Maybe another teacher could have done better than me, but I honestly feel like the real issue was whether some of the students were in the right placement.

However, I can say it wasn't enough for me.  All of my energy, (physically, emotionally, and mentally) was being sucked out of me everyday.  On Friday evenings, I was dreading going back to work on Monday.  I wasn't able to be here for my own kids and be a good mom to them due to everything I was dealing with at work.  My marriage was suffering, too.

Since my husband is a Marine, he has a lot of expectations for his job (deployments, training, overnight duties, long hours, etc.).  With my commute and long hours, he was picking up a lot of slack with the kids.  Honestly, my job was keeping him from being the best Marine he can be.  And that's just not right.  Not that my job isn't important, but in the scheme of our family, his job is the most important.  

My husband and I had a long talk and realized that I just couldn't do it anymore.  He needs to be able to  fulfill all of his job responsibilities without my job interfering.  I need to be present and available for my own kids.  I need to take of me, too.  In the spirit of honesty, I'll say that the situation in that classroom was not allowing me to be the best teacher I can be.  I have never wanted to be THAT teacher.  The teacher who doesn't enjoy her students.  The teacher who hates going to work.  The teacher who feels like she accomplishes nothing.  But I was feeling like THAT teacher.

I ended up taking a leave of absence for the rest of the year.  Ultimately, it was just impossible to take care of my family and work in that school.  My husband could no longer take the kids to school, pick them up from school, do their homework, pick them up when they were sick, etc., etc. due to his job.  But more importantly, I couldn't emotionally or mentally do it anymore.  

During all of our decision making, I read this awesome article {here} that really made an impression on me.  One of the quotes states, 

"A teacher who thrives in one particular situation might not thrive in another. Teachers are most successful and happy when they work in the subject, school, context, and communities that best fit them."

I wasn't thriving this year and no way could my students thrive in that situation.  I wasn't sure whether I should post this or not.  But I wanted other teachers in these same shoes to know, it's ok to put yourself and your family first.  As a teacher, it's my nature to give everything I have to my students.  Being a perfectionist doesn't help either.  It was incredibly hard for me to say that this isn't working and I have to put my family first.  It was also nice to know that others had made the same decision.  You can read another teacher's story {here}. 

Looking back, I know without a shadow of a doubt that this was the right decision.  My family is back on track.  My husband doesn't want to divorce me anymore.  ;)  My kids are happy.  And even better, I just started a part-time intervention teaching position for 3rd graders!  I'm still able to teach, but it's in a way that's feasible for my family.

For those teachers that are struggling, my heart goes out to you.  I know I'm fortunate, because I was able to take a leave of absence and many other do not have that option.  I hope those of you that are struggling are able to find a support system for you.  Maybe that support system isn't going to be in your school, but I hope you have one.  Know that you are a good teacher.  Maybe this isn't the best teaching situation for you at this exact moment, but it doesn't define you.  



12 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your story! It is extremely tough to teach in the type of classroom you described. I'm glad you have been able to step back and find what will work best for you and your family!!

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  2. Wow! You have been through a lot! Thanks for sharing your story. I am sure it will bless and encourage many. I LOVE my job BUT don't love what the state and county are doing to it and the direction things seem to be going. It is very tough on almost all teachers I would guess. So happy you have found peace and a place to fit in:) Family should always come first and I am constantly needing that reminder. Thanks!!! Be blessed:)

    4th Grade Frolics

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  3. I applaud you! You do what you need to do for your family. Although I am a dedicated teacher (as you are too), the students come and go year after year. Your family is with you forever. And these days teaching is more and more stressful, instead of getting "easier" on veteran teachers. Again, I applaud you and am happy you are/were able to do what you are/were able to do.
    "autumn"

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  4. Angelia,
    I saw on Facebook that you had started a new job and was trying to figure out what happened. I am so happy you shared this story because I didn't want to ask you what happened. I remembered you reaching out to us at the beginning of the year and saying how defeated you felt at the end of the day. Your post brought me to tears, because although I don't have kids of my own yet, I know the feelings you went through and the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion that we feel in our jobs. Your story is comforting, inspiring and moving. Your family is lucky to have you as their mom and wife, and you are an incredibly strong person for doing what you did. My new job is a classroom that had a wonderful teacher before me, but when an opportunity arose for her to transfer to a different setting, she took it because she said it just wasn't her cup of tea and it was hurting her family life. I admire teachers like you and like her, who can come out and say this isn't working. As teachers (and women) we have a tough time admitting that we can't do it all. We want everyone to think we can handle anything and we are willing to let parts of our lives suffer for it. So often we read each other's blogs and go on Pinterest and feel like we should be doing more, we should be breezing through teaching. But it's not a profession you can breeze through! It's amazing that you made this tough decision. I hope your story inspires many to remember what should always come first: family!!! Anyway, I've gone on too long!

    Sending teacher love to you and your family. I am so happy for you!!!

    Sarah
    The Eager Teacher
    Miss Eager//Create & Inspire

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  5. I've been thinking about you and I am so glad that you are now in a position that is right for you and your family! I hope the rest of your year goes much smoother!

    Sara :)
    The Colorful Apple

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  6. Good for you for posting this story and for doing what is right for your family. It is reassuring to see people do what is right for their families and to realize when what they are doing is not right. I believe that you were placed there for a reason and that reason could have been to show you what is really important in your life--your family. As teachers, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect--the perfect teacher, the perfect wife, mother, and volunteer. Sometimes you have to let things come "undone" and give up some things, before YOU come undone! I applaud you for making the right choice. I know how hard it is to somewhere that you don't feel is right. I taught in a school system for the last three years, that I prayed to leave everyday that I was there. I haven't posted about it, because I know there are people that teach there that read my blog and I don't want to hurt their feelings. I have several good friends there, but maybe one day I will get the courage to do as you have and post about that. I had times that I felt that I couldn't leave, because it was my calling to be there, however the longer I was there the worse it became. I am blessed now to be in amazing school where I live and everyone there is encouraging that atmosphere and ability level of the teachers is top notch! I'm so glad that you are happy now and I love keeping up with you! I know you will inspire so many others with your story.
    Kim
    Mrs. H's Resource Room

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  7. Thank you for sharing your story Angelia. What a challenging situation and decision you had to make! I applaud your honesty and courage. My heart goes out to you and your family for the months of stress, anxiety, and struggles. Only a truly motivating, talented, and passionate educator can make a decision like you did for the good of herself, family, and students. Though it may not seem like your decision was beneficial to your school and students, it was. Your lack of adequate support, due to the intensity of your students, was draining you as an educator, wife, mother, and human! I don't have to tell you that the emotional toll of being a special needs teacher greatly impacts us on a day to day basis. If we are not in an environment that supports us as people and individuals, we cannot be asked to strive for more. Sadly, in our profession (special needs educators), our passion, tenacity, and loyalty is tested on a daily basis. As you put it in your thoughtful response to my story, this is NOT a reflection of you. However, I get the feeling that you know this already. Your loyalty and love for your family is enviable and it sounds like you definitely did make the right decision.

    I'm so happy that you found a solution that works for you and your family during a time and in a situation that was not ideal (or good!). I'm always here if you ever need to talk :)

    Rae

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  8. I am so happy to hear that you have found a situation that better fits your family and needs! Special Ed is such a tough field because unfortunately the students are so complex and require so much more than anyone can fully provide them with. Last year I went through a similar situation with my morning class. It was a bad composition of students and the students fed off of each other. Also, the group of students were specifically put in my room because of the incompetence of my fellow ecse teacher. There were lots of safety issues for the other students, myself and the students themselves. I am not tenured either and last year I wanted to change positions desperately, but am not allowed too until tenured. Fortunately, this year so far has been a much better year for me and my spirits are up. I hope this new position continues to be so enjoyable! Thanks for sharing!
    Kate
    Fun in ECSE

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  9. I am SOOO happy for you! We need to catch up and celebrate! Dinner this week? Hope the new school is working out well:)

    Tonya
    Tonya’s Treats for Teachers

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  10. Good for you for following your instinct and embracing change! I hope it's all that you hope it to be!

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