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Sparking Joy

I’m Not “Just” a Teacher

It’s bizarre how much of our identity is tied to our profession. Maybe it isn’t so strange – we spend so much of our time at work, getting ready for work and unwinding from work. Work is where people tend to spend most of their days. It makes sense that our self worth is so deeply tied to our jobs.

When it comes to careers, how does one decide on one? What should I do? It’s a question I’ve asked myself often over the past few years. I began to teach right after college through Teach for America. The first two years were brutal. Every day on my drive into work, I would ponder how much time off I would get if I crashed my car. Not just a little crash either – I considered slamming into highway medians at 80 miles per hour. Those two years were rough.

Instead of quitting teaching altogether, I decided to give it a shot in a different building. I started working at a school that I absolutely adore this year. It’s been great – I have an amazing class of kids and far less anxiety than I had the first two years, but I was still asking myself what I should do next.

I’ve thought about it a lot and I realized that I kept saying that I was “just a teacher.” I saw peers leave teaching to become lawyers and doctors. Some went into tech. It made me question why I was still here, “just” teaching.

I’ve made the decision to continue teaching next year. Why? Because teaching is not “just teaching.” Teaching is something I am good at. Teaching allows me to give something to this world. Teaching is where I am meant to be right now.

Throwback to my first day teaching!

Teaching isn’t easy. It’s emotionally draining. The stories that my students bring to the table – often stories of struggle and hardship that no child should ever have to face – weighs on me daily. I worry about them, and for them. Teaching has opened up perspectives that I had never even considered before. Teaching has made me a better human being.

I’ve considered leaving to do something less draining, like work in an office. But the phrase that powered my through my illness during high school continues to come back to me. No rain, no flowers. I blossom where I have struggled, and I do that through teaching.

So this is me, saying that I am a teacher. Not just a teacher. And you know what – I’m pretty damn proud of it.

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Head + Heart = Hustle Sparking Joy

I’m Where I Need To Be

I just had a flashback to my high school aerobics gym class. Every Friday we would do yoga and meditations (I know, I know – bougie AF). Our teacher would begin each meditation session by having us close our eyes, and saying that we are “exactly where we need to be.”

This has resonated with me a lot this past week. I am exactly where I need to be. I’ve had this overwhelming feeling of discontent over the last few months. I thought I should have been further along by now. I should hold a different job title. I should be more successful. These thoughts ran through my head on the daily.

News flash, Jeanette – you’re 24! You’ve already accomplished a ton. You have your bachelors and your masters. You have a job that DOESN’T stress you out! (How many people can say that!?) You are married to an amazing human who encourages your growth on the daily, and you have a dope family. You have friends that make you think more. You survived two years of hell in the workplace. You’re hustling hard on the side, and that will only continue to grow. You get 12 weeks off a year! You live a beautiful life. YOU ARE IN A GOOD PLACE!

I am exactly where I need to be right now.

I think we, millennials, are a bit arrogant. We’re entitled. We think we deserve more than we have, but why? I’ve worked hard to get where I am now, and I’ll continue to work hard to get to my next place, but for now, I am content with where I am.

We don’t need to constantly check boxes. We need to remember to live and enjoy life. I will never be 24 years and 237 days old again. Tomorrow, I will be a day older. Time is fleeting, and that’s terrifying but also so damn motivating. That motivates me to enjoy each day, to really savor it.

So next time I am feeling like I am not where I need to be, I hope I take a second to remind myself that I actually am. I hope I remind myself about the dope things I’ve seen and done. I hope I continue to see the purpose in my days.

Teacher Tangent Tuesday #1

Who doesn’t love alliteration? Three T’s in a row? Hot damn! As you may have picked up from other posts, when I’m not writing this amazing blog, I’m a full time teacher. I started teaching three years ago when I became a corps member for Teach for America in the West side of Chicago, and have continued on until today.

Teaching is hard ya’ll. You have to figure out a way to get content to a room full of kids who don’t really want it. You need to take on the emotional baggage of children who are going through things that no child should ever go through. Some days I want to throw the towel in, but I don’t. There are fun parts about teaching and one of my favorites is the things kids say. I happen to teach in an Autism classroom, so filters are even rarer. So here’s a new series I’m starting, where every Tuesday I’ll be telling you about stuff that goes down in my classroom.

#1. Cat Calling

Okay, so, last week, I got a new student in my class. Yesterday, we were walking in the hallways when I see a girl we don’t know walking past us. The new student screams “hey shorty, you got a boyfriend?”

Keep in mind, he doesn’t know her. He is literally cold cat calling. He then does this with every woman who passes us by. Don’t worry friends – I made sure we had a chat later about how to appropriately talk to women. It is Women’s History Month, so it fit in well with our discussion.

#2. Where Do Babies Come From?

I just realized that most of my stories this week are going to involve my new student. He’s pretty funny, I must admit.

One of the girls in my class asked me if I had children. I said no. She then tells me I should adopt. New kids pipes in “Mrs. M, aren’t you married?” I tell him yes. “Well, I think you guys should just get to it then… I think you guys can figure it out.”

#3. Sweet Notes

One of my kids wrote me this poem. Safe to say, I cried a bit. That is all. (Don’t you worry – we are actively working on both grammar and spelling).

So there ya have it – a little peek into what has kept me amused at work this week. What about your job do you enjoy?

Categories
Head + Heart = Hustle

My Values Aren’t For the Greater Good

Last weekend, I went to session two of the work on purpose fellowship and I discovered both my strengths and my values.

To catch ya’ll up: my top five strengths were harmony, communication, empathy, input and consistency. My top three values… are non-compliance (hahaha), physical health, and humor.

This weekend, I, Jeanette, learned that I am not as good of a person as I thought I was. AND I’M OKAY WITH THAT! In all honesty, anyone who writes that they value world peace and global warming more than anything else in the world is a damn liar. Maybe Elon Musk is on that level of selflessness, but he was able to achieve selfish goals already.

My values and my strengths make me who I am, and after examining them, I understand why I operate the way that I do. I also totally get why my pet peeves are present. My strength is consistency, so if you say you’ll do something and you don’t… I don’t have faith in you anymore. I value input, so reading makes me feel so damn good, because I get to put some information in my noggin. My value of non-compliance… I get why I question everything that is asked of me.

I think it’s critical that I understand these parts of myself. Before analyzing this, I thought of myself as a “nice” person who does things for others, when really my values are pretty damn self centered. Taking my values and strengths, and putting them against what I do in my current job, makes me understand why I am not thrilled to go to work everyday. Teachers don’t really have room for non-conformity – there’s too many protocols we need to follow. I don’t input all that much into myself at work because the academics I teach are so rudimentary.

After this weekend, I’ve been thinking extensively about happiness and careers and strengths and all that good stuff. I’m curious, how many people are pursuing careers that truly suit them? How is their happiness correlated to that? How can I use my strengths and values, and couple them with my passions, to find my dream job? Is that even possible?

Job Snob and Presidency

I think I might be a job snob. I’ve been called a snob before, but never a job snob. I’m not quite sure how to handle this.

For the entirety of my adult life, I’ve held two jobs – both as a special education teacher. The first school I worked at was the epitome of a living hell. I would cry on my way to work, during my lunch, on the ride back and then a little more at home. I dreaded going to work everyday. The second school, where I currently am, causes far less tears. I have a fun group of kids, a great case manager and the autonomy to teach how I see fit.

I also taught in Israel for a few weeks. Definitely not my calling.

“Is this enough? Am I fulfilled?” I still find myself wondering. Yesterday, I had a pseudo midlife crisis meltdown and cried for two hours about how my professional life is in shambles. “My job doesn’t tick all the boxes,” I cried. I had written a list down at the end of the last school year with attributes my dream job would have. It would have flexible hours, great pay, autonomy and an unlimited supply of LaCroix. On top of that, it would also be aiding in the greater good of the world, challenging me daily and thrill me on the regular. Isn’t that what everyone strives to have in their career?

This got me thinking. When did a job stop being “just a job”? When did good pay, and health insurance become not enough? When did it become something that was expected to fulfill you as well? I think it might be a millennial thing. I worked a summer in a bougie office between my first two years of teaching, and everyone who came through the elevator had the same jokes about retirement. “How many more days for you Sally?” one would ask another. “Ah, you know, 452 and 2 hours,” Sally would reply. My stomach would turn, as I vowed to never be like Sally and gang.

I want a job that I am excited to go to every morning. I enjoy what I do now, sometimes, but it gets monotonous and boring to teach single digit addition on the daily. Am I supposed to get thrill from a career? Is that pretentious of me to desire? My husband made a great point – I want everything that would be found in a fulfilling life in my career. Why can’t I get the checkmarks that go unchecked outside of my job? Why am I insistent that my dream job exists?

I’m in the midst of reading the Michelle Obama book (book number 8 of the year for my self imposed challenge). She apparently had similar feelings when she was a lawyer, and segued into working with the government. She took a pay cut and lost some sweet perks of the job in order to follow her heart. Oh, and then she became the First Lady of our country. So if Michelle Obama can figure it all out, maybe I can too. Maybe if I just finish reading the book (I’m about 44% through), my answer will be there, glowing, highlighted and in bold text, on the last page. Maybe I’ll just run for president. I’m sure they have that unlimited supply of LaCroix that I was asking for. Wishful thinking, amirite?