Sunday, July 27, 2014

Taking the Next Step

In a meeting with my principal early last year, he and I were discussing my not-so-easy class. That day, which happened to be a Friday, I had had a bit of a break down. It was ugly and horrible, and I wish I had been able to control my emotions better. At that point, though, I had been working so hard to get my class to look like the other classes that I just didn't have anything left to lift myself up. After discussing my desire to incorporate more of my own teaching philosophy into my classroom, I was feeling much better. Then he asked me, "Are you living to work or are you working to live?" I know he was trying to encourage me to relax a little bit and to take some time away from school. He was absolutely right; I needed to do just that. I was more burned out during that meeting (which happened in September...) than I had ever been in my teaching career. That question, though, is one I have struggled with since that day. I haven't fully decided whether or not it's a good thing, but I think I live to work.

I have to follow that up with this: I believe teaching is a calling. I fully believe God put me on this planet to inspire, care for, and challenge the children in my care. I believe he gave me the strength to put in the intense effort it can take to be a great teacher, and I believe he gave me the heart to love other people's children as if they are my own. He gave me the passion to fight for what's best for my students and to create awesome learning experiences for them. This is why I'm here.

The hardest part, for me, in being called to teach is that my teaching journey has not been easy. I have never had solid job stability, and I live year to year praying I have a job come August. It is stressful and depressing. There are many days when I struggle with the fact that I so badly want to teach and I feel I have great things to offer, but I still haven't found a place that will fight to keep me past the next year. This year was particularly difficult for me in this way. I can't count how many times I have wondered why, if I am truly called to be a teacher, I have to fight so hard to be one.

At the beginning of the summer (the last day of school to be exact), I was approached about a new opportunity. Our district was looking for a new media specialist and someone had recommended me. I applied and interviewed, but I wasn't offered the position. I'm completely okay with this (and I'm not just saying that - I really am okay), and I think it was a blessing in disguise - divine intervention. In that crazy few weeks where I was exploring all that teacher librarians do and the impact they have on students and staff, my eyes were opened up to something new.

I really could be a kick-butt teacher librarian. I fully believe that. (For those of you who don't know me personally, it might be hard for you to grasp the full effect of that statement. I never say anything like that about anything. My confidence in myself is nowhere near where I would like it to be, and I can easily talk myself into believing I am not really good at anything. Saying I fully believe I'd be a good librarian is saying a lot.) The job incorporates my two strongest passions: books and using technology to connect to the outside world. Not to mention that I'd have the opportunity to impact more students and teachers in the course of the year than I can as a classroom teacher. Back in January, my district invited Shannon Miller (@shannonmmiller) to be the keynote speaker at our technology conference. She's amazing, and even then, I wondered about what it would be like to have her job.

In all of this thinking and praying and trying to decide what I'm supposed to do, I decided now is the time to do something about it all. In June, I was admitted into a grad school program where I will receive my master's degree in school library studies. Tonight, I submitted my request to enroll in my first two classes.

Holy. Scary. I am a planner and a sure-thing kind of girl (which is probably why I've been having such a hard time with my lack of job security). There is no guarantee that having this degree will get me a job. Not to mention that I've been told over and over again not to get a master's degree until I'm in the district I will be in for the rest of my career because then I will cost too much and no one will hire me. What if I make this investment in my career and it doesn't work out?

Despite being completely scared to death and overwhelmed by the work that will be involved in this process, the biggest part of me is excited. This could be a good thing - a life-changing thing. I'm choosing to focus on that excitement. While it's so hard to fight for what I believe I should be doing, my fight's not gone yet. I'm hoping this next step will lead me to something awesome and fulfilling.

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