In Which I Muse on Teaching and Career – Part 2

I recently posted something I wrote back in February about my frustration with my teaching career. Since it was written so long ago, I decided to post it, but then follow it up with my current reflections on the topic. Here it is!

Read Part 1 here.

As I indicated in Part 1, my “love language” is Words of Affirmation. I thrive on others telling me I’m doing a good job. Despite the myriad Facebook posts about how awesome teachers are, most compliments are empty. No one sees what I’m doing in my classroom except me. Unless I brag about it everywhere (to colleagues, on the school’s Facebook page and Twitter feed, to my administrators), people have no idea what I do every day (and bragging is something most people feel uncomfortable with). Even fellow educators make assumptions about what I do in class. I know my colleagues say things to my students such as, “Sure, you can leave my class to go on this singing field trip… since you obviously think it’s more important than learning in my class.” I’ve heard students say that administrators say, “I can pull you out of chorus, right? You don’t learn anything in there, right?” (Of course, I know that the last one is probably not true – would an administrator really say something like that (even in jest?!) in this culture of people getting into trouble for every little thing? It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, though.)

As a choral teacher, I’m judged almost entirely on my groups’ performances in concerts. If I’m fortunate, an administrator stops by during the school day to do an observation to see my students working in small groups, teaching each other notes and solfege. Or maybe they stop by on a day when we’re doing individual assessments and students are singing solos, or maybe they see us composing using iPads. However, even if they see the most amazing lesson and engaged kids who are doing more than just learning a song by rote… I’m so low on the list, so off the edge of the radar, that they probably don’t even think to share that information with someone else – and I get it. Testing, putting out fires, dealing with parents/teacher/student problems… I understand why I wouldn’t rank high on that list, attention-wise. Just keep your head down….

So, like most choral music teachers, I’m shunted off to the side, seen as someone who takes students away from other, more worthwhile classes.

Now, all this being said, there are colleagues who came to my concert who said it was great. We got great feedback from students’ parents. My administrator said it was a great concert, as well.

But I know they think it’s just great for chorus. “Great concert. They sang! I heard the boys!” Not, “That teacher is a good teacher… not just a good chorus teacher.”

Of course, because I got good feedback, my opinion of my job turned around. Part of that was due to feeling that I wasn’t getting anywhere in my job search, and I wasn’t just going to go into the 2014-2015 school year with a terrible, resigned attitude. That would make everyone miserable, and I’m committed to not being miserable at work next year! I’m so invested in other people recognizing my hard work that because of a few compliments (and the general relief of having that huge event over), I felt much better about staying on in teaching for another year.

There are other elements to my attitude shift:

  • It’s the end of the school year. Two more weeks to go, then we have our 7 week break! That’s enough to make anyone more cheerful.
  • I learned to let some things go – things that I’ve decided it’s not worth trying to control. I’ve stopped fighting some things, although I know in my heart that the best teacher would fight. It has certainly made me feel a bit better, though, releasing that frustration and feeling of being trapped. So, I just let it go. It’s not worth my sanity.
  • My band colleague and I have begun planning for next year, and we have some really neat things in the works. That makes it worthwhile looking forward to.
  • I know I’ll have some good students next year (as well as some challenging ones, but that’s always the way).
  • I was accepted to the opportunity (hereafter called “Opportunity”) that pays $10K for one year! It involves doing action research on the proposal I submitted as part of my application. You have to be a teacher to participate. It will look fantastic on a resume AND it’s awesome.

Now, here’s the twist:

Last week, I was emailed by one of the administrators of my side hustle job. He said, “By the way, we’ve posted these positions that you may be qualified for.” I looked at both of them (both full-time), and one of them is below my current salary, though I’m completely qualified for the position. The second position (let’s call it Awesome Job) is at a higher pay grade than mine (significantly!), but a doctorate is preferred, and it’s a pretty intense job. The list of job duties is about 18 bullet points long and requires leadership qualities. It’s the kind of position I have been aspiring to, but I figured I would need to work my way up. I responded to the administrator and told him that I was going to apply for Awesome Job, although I don’t have a doctorate, and that the other job’s pay grade wasn’t high enough, sadly. I actually expected a response that perhaps the lower-paying job’s salary might be negotiable, but he wrote back and said that not having a doctorate was not a deal-breaker, and he thought I would perhaps be a good fit for the Awesome Job! I asked about the timeline and he said it would be soon, since they want someone in place in about a month or so – however, he did not yet know if he was going to be on the hiring committee (which sounds like “soon” is very open to interpretation).

I first freaked out – the idea of change is exciting and extremely stressful. (Am I getting too old for this?) I received the administrator’s emails just when I was feeling better about working at my school next year again, but not before I heard about the Opportunity. I was thinking, “I’m just now getting excited about teaching next year again, do I really want to leave teaching? Would I miss it too much?” Then I heard about being accepted for the Opportunity, and I got confused. In the end, I realized that it would be a better career move to just take the new Awesome Job if it’s offered to me, because part of the point of the Opportunity is to build a resume to GET a job like Awesome Job.

Of course, I haven’t been even granted an interview, but it sounds like at least one person (the administrator) is interested in having me interview (though he may not even actually be on the committee, but he thinks it’s likely that he will be?). I’m very hopeful that they’ll call soon, and I’ve burned a lot of brain power turning over all of the possibilities.

Add to this that technically I’m supposed to let the Opportunity people know by THIS THURSDAY, June 5 at 5 pm whether I’m going to accept the Opportunity…. They just let us know on Friday, May 30! There’s no way that I’ll know about Awesome Job by Thursday….! AAAAUUUUGGGGHHH

Either way…

I’m in a great position. Sure, staying in teaching would be exhausting and the Opportunity will be a lot of work, but it’s a great honor to be chosen and to participate. I can’t help thinking that more people would have to think that maybe I’m good at education when they hear that I’ve received acceptance into the program. But it would also be amazing to get Awesome Job. I just feel like everything’s in flux and we would definitely move if I got Awesome Job and trying to get L into a school here has been a lot of work and I had just chosen a new Ballet school for her and an after-school program and we’d have to try to sell our house and find a place to rent and …. I wish they’d just call me for an interview ASAP so not so much is up in the air.

Another thought: with the restructuring of the department for which I do this side hustle work, it may be that my side hustle will end up going away – being absorbed, perhaps, into one of these full-time positions that they’ve added. I’ve always known that it might not last all that long, but I would hate to see it go if I don’t get Awesome Job.

Thanks for reading this long post – I feel like there’s always some kind of drama going on in my professional life. I guess it’s time to own up to it – I create it myself!

– M.

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3 thoughts on “In Which I Muse on Teaching and Career – Part 2

  1. Well, it sounds like either way you can’t go wrong. If the Awesome Job doesn’t pan out then be happy that they considered you, and maybe another opportunity may come later. Hopefully the side work won’t dry up too soon. Good luck!

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