I am a high school English teacher. I am also the head of our English department. On top of that, I work part-time as an adjunct professor at the local community college. Teachers in the state of Maine, and really across the nation, are grossly underpaid. However, the rewards outweigh the paycheck, thankfully.
My job defines me. It is who I am, what I do. Weekends and vacations are spent planning and correcting. I bring my job home with me every night. The actual act of grading papers has never really been something I enjoy, but teaching has. Being in the classroom, interacting with students, helping them work through difficult tasks, create meaning, this has always been where I shine, where I am the happiest. In the past, my students have made me love my job and have made the red tape, bureaucratic b.s. worth it. Not this year. I have not enjoyed my job at all this year. I have five classes, three of which are full of wonderful, high achieving students. Two of which are not very academic, but they are fun kids, charming, mischievous, and likable. However, I have reached the point of teacher burn out. My job isn’t fun anymore. It consumes so much of my life and I am not liking it. I continually feel overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated. I am on an academic intervention team that is working to help improve our students’ achievement and I feel like all the time and work we are putting into this project isn’t going to make a damn difference. I feel like a bad teacher. I can’t motivate myself to come up with new lesson plans, so I have been relying on things I have done in the past, whether they were successful or not. I just came back from February vacation and I am already counting the days until April vacation. I have become THAT teacher. This has me freaking out.
I have been thinking and reflecting for the past couple of weeks on what my alternatives are, what I can do to make me happy with my job again. The obstacle I face is that I have a Bachelor’s degree in English, which is completely useless and a Master’s degree in Education, which qualifies me to teach and that’s about it. I’ve thought long and hard about what it is that I love to do. I love sharing books with people. Nothing makes me happier then when I hand a student a book and they come back and ask me for another or the next one in the series. I want to continue doing that. I do not want to worry about test scores. I do not want to bring my job home with me every night. I want my vacations to be vacations. I do not want to be in charge of ten other teachers. I do not want to spend my prep period counseling other teachers and supporting them when I have a stack of papers a mile high that need to be graded. Selfish? Maybe, but it is the truth.
Once upon a time my dream was to own a bookstore. Last year, I worked part-time in a wonderful little independent bookstore near me. I loved the job, but I really don’t think I could handle the business aspect of it all. I also fear for the future of independent booksellers with Amazon and electronic readers. So where does this leave me? Ahh… yes, the library. I want to be a librarian. There I said it. I want to be a librarian.
I am speaking with an adviser on Thursday to figure out if I need to get my Master’s degree in Information and Library Sciences or, since I already have a Master’s degree, if I just need to take a few courses to get certified. Either way, I am excited for what the future holds. I haven’t said that in a long time. It feels good. It feels right.
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