Not preparing, but still caring and learning

About a month ago, as August was in its infancy and the start of the school year was just around the corner, I realized something was oddly strange. Something was wrong.

I wasn’t upset, but something felt weird inside my mind.

Having been a teacher for almost two years, plus completing a semester of student teaching, and about two years of full-time substitute teaching (spread over four or so years), there was a certain time-frame/state-of-mind ingrained in me.

It’s something all teachers go through. At the start of a school year, there’s an itch to put together the classroom, spruce up the toolkit, and revise the syllabi. For the first time in a few years, I didn’t have any of those responsibilities.

At first, I was really relieved. I was relieved to exit the classroom. I was relieved to pass off the stress of reading 100 different assignments every week and grading those and finding out what interventions were best to help struggling students. Then, about a week into the new school year, while I was working one of my shifts at Starbucks, it hit me.

What am I doing? I need to get my syllabi done. I need to now.

In all reality, I knew that was not true. I knew I had exited the classroom, but something strange was happening in my mind. I felt as if someone was being let down because of my not doing that job anymore.

That wasn’t true either.

If anyone was let down, I suppose it was me. Putting all that time in during college, preparing for my life as a teacher, and then, just a few years later, realizing I didn’t want to do this job. I mean, I loved the job, but the job changed. The rules changed. The ideas changed. The job became a game. I left because I felt the system was against teachers, and that would drive me to not be as effective as I could be.

So, I opened up my Google Docs that I exported from my school account when I departed teaching. I found my syllabi from the last couple of years. I looked over what I was teaching. I didn’t miss that stuff — so much of it being stuff I didn’t want to do. I saw test prep materials (for the state testing), and I saw material that wasn’t interesting.

Maybe it had to do with the content area. I don’t know that middle school was ever where I wanted to teach (content-wise). I loved my students and their creative process, but the content at that age was something I guess I wasn’t passionate about. My passions are in complex composition, rhetoric, and literary analyses that students get to delve into in advanced high school classes.

Today, a month later, I’m attempting to be more mindful and appreciate the place where I find myself. I’m excited for my opportunities in retail, specifically with Starbucks. This company was founded on core values of the human spirit. The human spirit is even in our mission statement: “Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

I enjoy putting our mission into practice along with learning from my fellow partners at my Starbucks store. I’m not a pro barista yet, but I love learning and working to get there. Perhaps I’ll stay with the company. Perhaps I’ll go after a masters degree and go into social work, counseling or another field related to business. I’ve also considered public administration.

So, this year (if I’m thinking of school years), it may not be so complicated. I have a lot of time for myself. I am not responsible for grading, planning or executing certain lessons, or putting myself into a vulnerable position and preparing students for a test I don’t believe in. I’m learning new things at a job I genuinely enjoy.

Here’s to the opportunities to grow, to dream, to explore and more. I miss the ideas and vision I had as a teacher, and the grand plans I had to help my students be all they could be. Someone else is there now, and I hope those kids are exploring the world and getting instruction that drives them to explore and love books, ideas, stories and writing.

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