Saturday, February 16, 2008

Au revoir Madame Grauer 

I wrote this post a little while ago, but guess I wasn't really ready to post it until now. I figure the cat is out of the bag, might as well get it all out there.

I'm going to start this one off with a quote. I found it on a card in Temecula, and I bought it to remind me that life will work itself out, somehow, someway. Even if it is not how I planned or expected it to.

"Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should..."

My last post here was the one that told the world I finally landed the job I have been working towards for the last several years. I can't even describe the joy that comes from receiving the news that all my years of hard work were finally paying off. So you might be surprised to learn that my last day in the classroom was January 7th.

I don't even know where to begin. There was no doubt in my mind that this job was going to be difficult. I was starting six weeks in to the semester, with four different levels of French to teach, and two university classes at night (one of which was a TPA class, for those in the know. And for those that don't, just know that it's hell.) Not to mention that my own French skills were pretty "rusty" for lack of a better word. My last French class was two years ago and it was an upper division class on the evolution and culture of French cuisine.

However, I figured that once I was back into using French everyday it should all come flooding back to me. Heh heh, not the case. All of the things I was teaching, I hadn't had myself since high school really, and that was 12+ years ago. So trying to re-learn how to form these grammar structures and know it well enough to re-teach it to apathetic kids in an understandable manner was troubling to say the least. This is on top of trying to plan lessons for four different levels of students (five periods total) and writing my papers for school.

But that's the thing, I knew it was going to be obnoxious. Especially being my first year teaching, which is always the worst. And it's not like I'm lazy and didn't want to do all this work. Why else would I have spent the last several years busting my ass in school, getting straight A's, working full-time and laying out money each quarter? I expected to be overwhelmed for a long time until things got better. What I didn't expect was the physical and emotional toll it took on me. One that goes beyond the first-year insanity.

It all started about the second week. The first week and a half or so were no doubt crazy, but I was still high on getting my first teacher job. I didn't sleep most nights. One because I was up all hours trying to plan or getting up at the crack to review or make last minute preparations for the day. The rest of the night was spent worrying about the upcoming day or week. I didn't eat because I spent all day on my feet in class, then when school was out I was too sick to my stomach to even want to eat and too busy to stop and get a bite anyway. When I wasn't at school I was consumed with thoughts of worry. I was pretty much comatose on Thanksgiving. I went upstairs and took a nap just so I wouldn't have to talk to anyone, because usually when I talked about work I would lose it. Then came the anxiety attacks. Most often they occured during my first period prep before the students came in. I had to call my mom everyday to get her to talk me off of the ledge. It was horrible. I had never dreamed that my career in education would leave me deteriorated and miserable.

I had talked to several people throughout the process. All of which were extremely supportive and willing to offer a hand in any way. But no matter the amount of help offered, nobody could take away the day to day mental torture I was experiencing. I finally ended up going to a therapist. She was wonderful and really helped me make sense of everything that was going on. She said that a lot of the anxiety would subside once I finally made a decision about what I wanted to do about everything.

I had been playing with the idea of resigning for awhile, but I of course was pretty hesitant about it. After all, how many people would I disappoint if I gave up after only two months? I mean, all I had been talking about for months was being a teacher this year. Countless people had helped me get to where I was going and supported me along the way. What would they think if I spent all this time and energy into becoming something that I only spent a couple of months doing? But that needed to be the last of my concerns. Sure, I cared about what people thought, but when it comes down to it, that doesn't really matter. What matters is not staying with something if it was making me crazy. (Yes, I know, I was already crazy to begin with, but this was a whole new level of crazy for me.) I had done a really good job at holding it together in front of my students. I tried to make class fun for them and let my passion for the subject shine through. But I knew that if I kept going under these circumstances, it wouldn't always be that way. My biggest fear was losing it in front of them and Lord knows I came close on a couple of occasions.

I finally told my principal that I couldn't do it. I was very lucky that he was so supportive. He could have been a dick about the whole thing if he wanted to, but he wasn't. He encouraged me to stay until break so that I get my two weeks of holiday pay and advised me to use my sick days since I wouldn't get them back. He even called the district and worked with them on getting me out of my contract since apparently our district is notorious for giving teachers a hard time about leaving. I can say without a doubt that he is the best principal I could have worked for and the kids are so fortunate to have him.

So there it is. I had a meltdown and quit being a teacher. I am unemployed and living in my parents' garage. Pretty glamorous lifestyle, eh? I don't know what the future holds for me. I don't know if someday I'll go back. I don't know what I'm going to do for work in the meantime. There's a lot of unanswered questions and it is a pretty uneasy and confusing time in my life. One thing I do know is that there are way worse things in life. It is a setback in my life, but by no means the end of the world. I am trying to remain positive about the situation and believe that everything will work out. Until then, just enjoying time with my family and sleeping in. Can't beat that.

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