being a teacher, being me, reflection

Feels Like Home

image from icanread

I was a lonely child.  Not quite a loner, but definitely always the awkward not quite sure where she fit in kid hovering in the background.  I had friends, in fact, I had many friends, but I had few that got me, few that wanted to get me, and I wasn’t really sure how to make people want to be my friend.  I switched schools several times throughout my childhood and every time I kept thinking that maybe this time was the time I would feel like I belonged.  That maybe this move would make my personality change and I wouldn’t be quite as dorky, quite as needy, quite as intense.  It never happened but my hopes kept my heart aflutter.  I made friends along the way, some I still keep as parts of my life, but each friend was one I battled for, one I really tried for, not one that came easy.

When I moved to Wisconsin permanently at the age of 18, I felt truly lost.  My parents and little brothers were here, but I had no one.  Not a person to call, to meet for coffee, to go to a movie with.  And I had no idea where to start.  For my first 3 years here I stumbled along a path, meeting people but not quite making friends besides one.  Then I met Brandon and I felt like I was found.  For the first time, I didn’t feel so lonely.  I didn’t feel that dorky, or needy, or intense.  I just felt like I was home.  And every day I cannot believe that he chooses me to be his wife.  That he chooses me to be there for him.  That he chooses me.  How this lost kid ever found her soulmate, I am not sure but somehow my heart found where I belonged.

I feel that way when I am in my classroom.  When I am among my students and some of my colleagues, I feel home.  Like I am with my tribe of people that get me and that I get.  I know the rules of friendship, community, and how to build trust.  I am needed and wanted.  I have a purpose and I fulfill it with all of my heart every day.  So as I struggle with whether or not I should continue teaching due to finances, I feel as if my heart is breaking.

I would have never said that I was born to teach.  I think I was born to understand, to connect, and to try to help.  Teaching lets me do all of that.  teaching lets me be a part of someone’s life and make a difference every single day.  I never don’t want to go to work, even if I have slept little, am sick, or there is a snowstorm.  My work is my home as well and those kids I get to teach are parts of my family.  Those people I get to work with are parts of my family.  And yet, the state of teaching as a job that pays the bills is abysmal and I don’t know if  can keep letting my heart rule how my family is supported.

So I wonder if my path now leads to a new home?  Will this teacher find a new place to belong?  Or will I leave teaching and be lost like I was so many years of my childhood?  Will I leave my tribe only to be without one or is there another one waiting for me somewhere?  I know I am not the only one searching for answers, can we find home again, outside of teaching?


11 thoughts on “Feels Like Home”

  1. “And yet, the state of teaching as a job that pays the bills is abysmal and I don’t know if can keep letting my heart rule how my family is supported.”

    Thank you for mentioning this. There are quite a number of people who fail to see this as a valid point or brush it off with sentiments such as: “You didn’t go into this for the money,” “Your first priority should be the kids and not a paycheck,” or “You get the summers off and that’s compensation enough.” But when you’re living paycheck to paycheck, supporting a family, and find yourself in more and more debt as the years go by you do start to think about when you’ll hit the point that you can’t do this anymore because you can’t afford to have this job.

  2. I’d really hate to see you leave the profession. You said that you didn’t feel you were born to teach, but I think you are a phenomenal teacher! I learn so much from you. I hate when the great teachers feel like they need to leave the classroom or the profession all together. I understand where you are coming from though. As a single parent and a teacher, I have to rely on my salary alone. I do not live above my means and am very frugal with my money, but I still feel like I am barely making it. If I found another job, I don’t know what I could do.

  3. So many of us in the teaching profession feel this way. Your words really struck a chord with me today. This year marks my 10th year of teaching and the first time I have ever seriously thought about changing my profession. I adore my job, I relish connecting with my students and watching their love of reading blossom under my tutelage. I know I’m making an impact on these kids who struggle with issues of poverty, neglect, violence or drugs at home and sometimes all of the above.
    And yet, I am bone tired.
    My own family rarely sees me. I spend 10 hour days at work during the week and am often in my classroom on the weekends. A part of me thinks that this might be bearable if I was being properly compensated for all those hours – we could fill that summer off with family vacations, or buy a house where we don’t have to worry what will conk out next.
    While I work myself to the bone and spend most of my free time thinking about how I can be an even better teacher, I am earning what amounts to a beginning level salary in most post graduate professions. My husband and I both have Masters degrees, but his engineering salary is more than double mine. We live in the Bay Area, and I know if I were a single mother, I would not be unable to support myself and my children.

    At the same time we teachers are working ourselves to our limits, the public perception of our job is at what feels like rock bottom. We are constantly being told public education is broken, and teachers are not doing enough. Those of us in the profession (and our families) know how hard we work and how unbalanced the compensation is given the hours we work and the many hats we wear (educator, counselor, nurse, protector, cheerleader – and this week I was instructed that I must be able to make life and death, spur of the moment decisions in an active shooter situation – so now we can add military strategist to that list too).

    What does it say about our society that those of us who are responsible for the academic, physical, social and emotional well being of our children are considered less important than those who add to the corporate/financial good of our nation?

    But, I am 42 years old and it’s a little late to change my profession. I always felt that what I did with my life should add to the common good of our society and I tell my own children the same thing – Make sure you choose a profession first that you love, and second that gives back. If we all did that, our world would be a happier place 🙂

    I will stay where I am and keep working for those children who walk through my door every day. For now. Perhaps something better will come along that offers me a salary commensurate with my abilities and my work ethic. Most likely not. I have made a decision to step back a little from all those long hours, committees and extra duty activities. My family must come first and I honor your decision to do that too Pernille. I know you only through reading your blog and following you on twitter. But even this small window into who you are shows me a talent well and truly ready to shine. I know you will be successful in whatever you choose to do.

    Good luck,

  4. Pernille
    I read this early today and wondered what the reactions would be. I agree with all that has been said. I hope you stay. I’m a lot like Annabel — she basically wrote my thinking and situation. I hope you stay. I’d understand if you couldn’t. Thank you for all that you do.

    1. Isn’t it crazy to see how many of us are in this situation? That we do it out of love and hardly make enough to sustain ourselves and our families. I think they forget to highlight this to new teachers, that at the moment it is a mostly thankless job in the eye of politicians and that you will never get paid for the actual hours you work.

  5. After a successful career as a classical musician, I switched to teaching as a second career. I felt teaching would offer me security that my music job did not, as well as health insurance for my family that my husband and I (as free-lance artists) paid a high price for. Back in college again to get my certification, I discovered how much I enjoyed teaching and working with students. Unfortunately, changes were made in Wisconsin during my first year as a teacher. These changes remove any job security I might have and increase my cost of health insurance. They also brought out many negative comments toward teachers and how ‘cushy’ the job is. In some communities I have worked in, teachers were no longer respected, and I think that has hurt me the most.
    I love my job, and have a wonderful school to work in that supports the staff as best they can. However, I understand any move to leave the profession. I think I would be very tempted if another job came along that offered me good health insurance, a living wage for my family, and no spending evenings and weekends ‘catching up’. The negative attitudes toward teachers and the low pay with decreased benefits make it difficult to raise a family.
    Good luck with your decision and whatever path you choose. It is a difficulty decision, but judging from your blog posts, I am guessing you will continue to work towards making a difference in the lives of others.

  6. As a parent of a child that you have forever changed; it hurts my heart a little to see this. Isabel is that girl you were. She feels at home because of you. However, I totally understand where you are coming from and will support your decision wholeheartedly either way!

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