As I look back on my first year away from school, I am contemplative. Reflection makes a great teacher and some habits do not go away no matter what you do. I have a teacher streak in me that does not disappear in my new profession. I have handouts for my clients that I use a highlighter on so they can really see the property tax amount. I have a teacher tone I use when needed and my ability to herd humans into a designated area is still sharp.
Watching my teacher friends & family post on FB about winter break, snow days and grading is not enviable. I do not miss the long hours lesson planning and grading homework. I still put in long hours but I don’t lesson plan in a sense, it is named “marketing” now. And I still do a type of grading, I have many documents I organize and share around looking for mistakes that I need to fix. But it is different.
Some things that are similar between my former and present professions like the team aspect. In teaching, you are part of a team. You share lessons, time, energy and students. You need the latest info and which kid is having a rough go. In real estate, I am part of a team with the lender and escrow officer. We strategize and talk about our shared clients and how to close the transaction. I still have administrators watching me, they are now called principal brokers. They help with my questions like admin does.
Getting to know clients is a lot like getting to know students, only it happens much quicker. I see and hear all the problems in the 2 month period of buying a home. And I really get the inner workings when I sell a home. In the classroom, it took a good 4 months to really hear about the students private world. I still deal with crying, blaming and procrastinating. There are a lot more gifts I give out now and a lot less gifts I receive.
But I am on the other side of being a classroom teacher. Some days I feel like I gave up on kids and education. Other days I feel like I served my time, gave my love and it is okay for me to strive towards a different future. Looking back over the last year, I have read more books in one year than I did in three years combined while teaching. I took more personally enriching classes just becuase I wanted to. I volunteered more at my son’s school. And I worried less.
It surprises me when I think about starting my own business, not knowing when or where my next paycheck will come from, not having health insurance, this is all less stressful than the toll of worrying about my students. I have not cried once in the shower in the last year about a student who is abused. I have not had one sleepless night wondering if a student is safe. I have not said once in the last year that I cannot do something with friends because I have to grade papers.
Friends. I actually have time for them. And they have all kinds of jobs not just teaching jobs. I can socialize at any hour I want because I am in control of my day and my time. And this is my biggest joy. Being in control of myself. When teaching, I was in control of my classroom (inside joke) but I had to answer to the bells and school schedules. Now I make my own appointments and keep them. I have no bells telling me it is time for lunch. That fear of “how am I going to make money” is quieted by my freedom to figure it out on my terms.
I miss those sweet/ stinky/ornery middle schoolers. Their bubble of energy and fits of spazz. Their growth spurts emotionally and physically. They kept me young and goofy and weird. I may have accelerated aging since I left the classroom but nobody on the outside comments on my grey hair. I miss sharing my love of science and the natural world with young humans putting the pieces together. And I miss when they get something for the first time, that spark. And I miss the dances. A lot. I got the best moves from middle schoolers.
I hold all this in my heart. And I am grateful for my chance to change my mind and try something new. Teachers are brave and they are giving. And some days I feel selfish for leaving. Selfish for wanting more money and to be compensated for how hard I work. Selfish to leave behind my friends & family who are still in the thick of education. Ultimately, I am selfish. I needed to put my needs first and my needs were about my family and my future. At the end of the day, no one else is going to put me first. That’s up to me.
A retired teacher once told me when I said I left teaching “some of the best teachers leave.” That stuck with me. Not that I was the best, but that people leave. It doesn’t mean I am bad or a quitter. I just left. And like leaving any relationship it hurts some days and is really exciting other days and some days I have all my emotions at once.