Friday, September 9, 2016

Quitter

I didn't leave the 2015-16 school year with the idea that I would not be going back to teaching this year. I left it, with hopes of a different future. The realization hit me a couple weeks later. I knew, that for my health, I would need to quit teaching. I still wasn't ready yet. I definitely didn't want to tell anyone, particularly my coworkers who were always there for me.  

I can't say it was just one reason that made me leave. Before the school year started last year, I had approached a person above me, someone that I thought would be able to help me. I told this person that I felt like a failure at my job. I was expecting them to either: tell me that I was doing the best that I could OR help me to change my circumstances (i.e. teaching with 3 preps, overlapping classes, help me to manage my caseload, help me organize my time better, give me pro-tips to help me fix it, etc.). This person, someone that I looked up to, responded by saying-- "We really don't need that sort of negativity." And that was it. From that moment on, I packed up all of my sadness, depression, and anger into my little Honda Civic and took it home with me. My journals serve as an alarming reminder of the many dark days when I was screaming out for help. I felt guilty about being negative around others. At times, I still cried in my classroom, in the bathroom, or with other coworkers due to the sheer pressure of it all, but I gave up the hope that I'd be able to change the future as a special education teacher. 

The stakes are so high in education, each one of those children is someone's baby and their futures depend a great deal on their experiences in the classroom. I wanted to be able to teach my students how to read fluently, write with clarity, and be genuinely, good people. By the end of the year, my only focus was making sure that they were caring and considerate human beings. I gave up on the tests. I wanted them to be able to read longer words and I pushed them to read on their own, but I stopped caring about what the standards said. 

I am gratified by the relationships that I had with my students. I, also, know that I couldn't prepare them to read and write effectively to the standards that would equip them for the rest of their lives. I wanted miracles. I wanted them to love reading. In the end, I'm proud of what I was able to teach my students and I'm proud of each and every one of the kids. My heart was in the right place, but I had to go.    

There is only so much I can say about my experiences. Suffice it to say, that special education, and possibly education as a whole, needs as strong makeover. It's not all about the position, It's about me too. I don't think I was cut out for being a special education teacher. I've learned that I'm WAY too sensitive for the job. I wanted to save my students, to be their hero; it's just not realistic. Sometimes, their lives suck and they are dealt shitty cards in life. I couldn't handle the fact that I couldn't fix their circumstances for them.

The moment when I knew that it was okay to let go was powerful. I was bawling my eyes out on the phone with my mom. I was screaming about every single mistake I'd ever made in my life. My mom, in a tearful, but courageous, voice said to me-- "No matter what you do in life, from now on, I will always be proud of you." I am very close with my mom. I already knew she would always be proud of me, however I needed that conversation. That conversation told me that despite, or possibly because of, all of my flaws--someone will always be proud of me. That's all I needed to let go. I wrote my resignation and sent it. I gave a vague resignation the last week in June and then spent the rest of the summer praying that I would be released from my contract. My release came about 2 weeks into August and I didn't look back. I'm not sorry for leaving.

In my mind, I could either live with one of the two ideas about myself: I'm a failure or I'm a quitter. Failure meant that I wasn't sure if I wanted to wake up the next day because what would be the point--Get up, fail, then go to sleep? It wasn't a decision that I could live with. So, I chose to be a quitter. I'm here to tell others, it's okay to be a quitter. If you feel miserable, quit. So what if you haven't found your niche yet, You will. I will too.

I wrote this in my journal and later on social media and it sums up my feelings pretty well:
Sometimes, in life, you come to a point in your journey where you realize you will have to make a choice. You can continue living the way you are or you can sacrifice what you're used to for the hope of happiness.
Do it, give up what you think you want and need, for joy. Sacrifice for happiness, do it every single time. No one ever looks back on their life and thinks, I just spent too much time being happy.


And, I am truly happy. I'm just lucky, and blessed, that I have multiple passions in life and now I get the opportunity to pursue my other life passions beyond teaching secondary students. 

3 comments:

  1. Wow, Alisha. I had no idea you were going through all of that. In retrospect, wasn't the experience part of your life's learning process. You were in the trenches and now you know first hand what special ed teaching requires on many different levels. You will need this information in the future. I have learned that life is cumulative. Everything I have ever learned, every mistake I have ever made, every person I have ever met has taught me something. I am a smarter and wiser human being as a result. It will make sense to you in 20 years. I can't wait to see what you do next.

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  2. Alisha--You are NOT a quitter! Nor are you a failure!! Having taught you, and having taught for 50 years, I know. You did the BEST you could with the materials, students and support you got. You cared about what you were doing and how you did it and for whom you did it! And that is why you had to leave. YOU cared! And got overwhelmed by all those who say they care but do not. They do not give the money, time, support any of the things a teacher needs whether it's in special education or regular education. We are not God, and we cannot produce miracles. We do the BEST we can with what we have and we care. I cannot fix anybody. The only person who can fix another person is the person!! Do not feel that you quit. You realized you couldn't do it all, and had to find something that you could care about and could CHANGE. Now go make that change..

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  3. You are brave and courageous, sweet and loving. You, Alisha, are a complete success :) Erica

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