So Much Joy, So Much Dread

My mom worked at the same dental office for her entire career. She had the same routine for a little over 40 years, Mondays thru Thursdays. She would get to work around 7am, see patients all day, and be home between 5 or 5:30pm. My dad had almost the same career for his entire adult life, as well. He started out in city planning, but transitioned into a city manager role for three local cities over the course of 30 years. His schedule wasn’t as predictable as my mom’s, but he had the same title for decades. As for me, I don’t know if I can be a teacher for my entire career.

I was walking down the inner hallway of my building this week during my prep period, and I was suddenly struck with this overwhelming feeling of not knowing if I can be a teacher forever. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things that I absolutely love about my job. I love the students, even though they can be very difficult at times. I love being of assistance to them. I love being a stable presence for them because I know that many of them have difficult home lives. I love collaborating with my fellow teachers and the camaraderie that we have built. I love coming up with new and creative projects for my students to connect them to whatever we’re reading in class. There are many, many things that I love about my job, and these are just a handful of them.

But, can I do this for 20 plus more years? Can I maintain this same energy and enthusiasm until I’m totally gray? I’ve previously mentioned how difficult the 2020–21 school year was because of distance teaching. Currently, we’re already in another difficult year in education, and this year has already made me exhausted. I’ve never been one of those teachers that counted down the days until the next break, or the end of the school year, but I found myself doing that this week. I also found myself sitting in my car for a couple more minutes when I got to work , wishing I was still at home, and just not wanting to move. I don’t know if it’s because of the tough couple of weeks I had at the end of August because of my UTI, which is totally gone at this point, or if it’s because of the ever-changing protocols that we need to follow and be aware of on a daily basis due to COVID. All I know is that I have found myself thinking about what I could possibly do as a second career that would be just as fulfilling.

Even though teaching from home was seriously hard, I miss the freedom that it allowed me. I had more time to grade, more time to plan, and more personal time because we were allowed to have limited instructional time due to distance learning. All of these components were a positive in a year that was filled with negatives. Going back on campus, back into a room of kids that need almost constant monitoring, and losing that time to do grading and lesson planning has been, well, a bummer, and I’m missing it more and more as the days go on.

This is my seventh year of full-time teaching, but my eleventh-ish, as a whole. They say that if new teachers can make it past year five, they usually stay in the profession for the rest of their career. Some teachers transition into admin roles, or various instructional roles if they want to get out of the classroom, but it’s always education centered. Maybe teaching during the pandemic was too close to my fifth year and that’s why I’m feeling the burnout. I don’t think people who are not teachers understand how exhausting this job can be. There’s a lot of pressure from all sides at all times, lots of needs and demands, and we’re the first ones to get blamed when shit hits the fan.

I don’t really know where this leaves me right now. If I were to transition into a different career, I would still want one that is of service to others because I like helping people. I don’t have a clue what that would look like, and there are major factors that I would need to consider if I were to seriously think about leaving my teaching position; it’s a tough call. For now, I will continue on, and bring as much love and enthusiasm to my students as I can. I have a lot of wonderful things that I enjoy about my career, and I’m keeping that in mind most days, but I’m getting that craving to escape into something new. I hope I can quell it.

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