I’ve been a teacher in some capacity for twenty-three years. I fell in love with the profession when I was a college student and landed a part-time job as an assistant language teacher in an elementary school. I was sure that I had found my vocation – that teaching would be a source of both income and happiness for the rest of my life.
I took an education degree and got jobs teaching English overseas and in Quebec. Despite the difficulties I encountered, my dedication to the job never wavered. Teaching inspired me. The emotional rewards were immediate and powerful; the challenges were opportunities to learn and grow.
In 2001, I finished my Masters degree and began teaching English literature at a CEGEP. Within a short time, I had tenure. And for the first few years, my love of teaching persisted.
But teaching CEGEP was different from my previous jobs. The responsibilities were greater, the marking load was enormous, and I faced many more classroom management problems than I expected. Students cheated. They failed and demanded that I give them second chances. They lacked motivation and refused to follow directions, or were blatantly disrespectful and disruptive.
In the past, I’d found these pedagogical challenges interesting, but as the years passed, I became more and more tired, anxious, and discouraged. The rewards seemed to diminish in proportion to the difficulties. I began dreading the start of the school year, dreading Monday morning, dreading each class. At 35, I began counting the semesters until I could retire. And then I began concocting plans to leave teaching and pursue some other career.
But then I stopped. I took some time to reflect. I took some time off. I looked around at what I had. I examined what was really at the root of my problem. I investigated ways to strengthen my skills and commitment. I found methods to calm my mind and fortify my heart. And I started to meticulously document my experiences, reactions, and options.
Now, a few years later, I’ve renewed my commitment to teaching. I haven’t returned to my initial, giddy infatuation with my job; instead, I’ve developed a deeper and more sustainable understanding of my role and its rewards. I don’t know for sure that I’ll be a teacher forever, but I know that I have a lot more years in me.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll outline some of the steps I took to regain my love of teaching:
- STEP 1: Take stock. Is it worth it to stay?
- STEP 2: Take time off.
- STEP 3: Find and appreciate your (educational) community.
- STEP 4: Face your fears.
- STEP 5: Keep learning: get more training.
- STEP 6: Take up meditation (or another contemplative practice).
- STEP 7: Start a blog.
Stay tuned! Maybe my experience will shed some light on yours, no matter what your profession. What’s more, I’ll present some general questions for you to consider if you are wondering how to love your job more/again/for the first time.
And please leave comments about your own path. Have you struggled with whether your career is the right one for you? Are you deliberating this now, or have you resolved the dilemma? If you’re just embarking on your professional life, what are you going to do or stay motivated? We’d love to hear your stories.
The series “How I Saved My Teaching Career” was originally published on the TimesOnline’s education blog, School Gate, in 2009. Thanks to School Gate’s editor, Sarah Ebner, for her permission to repost.
Image by tinneketin