My Next: Committing to a New Path

Next1It never fails – we get to the last couple weeks of the academic year and I feel off-kilter, surprised by how quickly we’ve arrived here and feeling as if we need another six weeks to catch up with everything that I have on my elusive “should-get-done” list that exists in some dimly-lit and narrow hallway in my brain. Doubling-down on this insanity is the realization that the collegiate athletics calendar has wound down which signals the {continued} busy season for my wife and her crew.  I know I shouldn’t be surprised with how quickly our year moves – I cross out our days on the calendar one-by-one. I schedule all three of us up to our noses with things to do, places to go and people to love. Nonetheless, here I am again, wondering how on earth we’re closing down the year and getting ready for summer visitations, making mama-only plans while Shortstack is at Dad’s house and talking about big changes for our upcoming fall.

Nine months ago I left my higher ed world. I haven’t missed it much since. In fact, I can’t say that I’ve missed it at all. That may partly be because I will always have a foot in higher ed via my wife and my friends, but I haven’t had a longing to work with college kids at all. My plans to substitute teach really started kicking along in the past several months and although I have my preferences in the DOE system down for middle or high school, I’ve found myself pretty well ensconced in a couple of elementary schools working mostly with first and third graders. These past months have been quite educational for me. I’ve learned …

  • K12 teachers are my heroes. A day in the classroom is NEVER quiet. There is rarely 2 consecutive minutes of peace when teachers are not being called, touched, talked to, asked questions of, repeating themselves, regrouping, directing, nurturing, comforting, whistling, trying not to yell, sending a prayer up to any deity that may or may not be listening in a plea for sanity and restraint. Seriously. After my first few sub days, I’d come home and tell my family to not talk to me. I’d lie down on the sofa in the quiet living room and just soak in the noiselessness.
  • To be fluid with my day within an inflexible structure. There are class periods that can’t and won’t change – times when your class needs to be with another teacher or in another location. PE, computer lab, May Day rehearsals, lunch times, and on and on and on. Within the hours that these kiddos are mine, plans don’t always go as expected – kids choose not to listen, more time is needed to explain and review fractions, the simple task of collecting journals blows up into a test of wills – so you need to be able to flow. Make changes on the fly, be aware of time, try to pace yourself while being mindful of the receptivity of the students as well as the tasks and goals that need to be achieved.
  • Dry erase markers rock! And always have an extra set on hand. And, yes, I’m as addicted to color options in dry erase markers as I am with my writing pens and pencils.
  • I want to do this.  For my NEXT, I want to teach.

So, our next year will open up with even more changes, more items on the gotta-do list, more days of our calendar blocked off with scheduled items, more evenings that there will be one mama at home taking care of what can be taken care of as I jump back into classes for my post-baccalaureate certificate to teach.

It’s a relief to have made a decision about what I want  my NEXT to be. It’s another ball in the air for Panda and I to incorporate into our circus-worthy juggling routine but it’s reassuring to know that I’m not feeling inadequate or directionless in my professional life. I’m confident that I can continue to explore my endeavors in community education for family and LGBTQ diversity, and continue to write. My novel hasn’t had much love from me lately but it will.

I can’t say that my time figuring out what’s next has endowed me with profound life truths but it has helped me to become more cognizant of creating and curating a life that allows me to do more than one of the things I want to do. I am not just mama – not just a student affairs educator – not just a wife or a housekeeper. There is enough time and energy in a week to pick up a paintbrush and play with watercolors, to go to the library and borrow a stack of books to read through over the next several weeks, to make meals for friends that drop in on a Thursday, to gather a bunch of awesome peeps at the beach for relaxation and catch-up, to have a mini-marathon of Scandal watching with my wife, to create a mini lesson plan for a bunch of third graders and to kiss my baby at night before he goes to sleep, to sit in front of my laptop and write stories. There’s enough time and energy – that’s the lesson these months of unemployment has taught me.

This year closes out like all of our others have; end-of-school year parties, gifts, tidying and purging. Packing up for summer trips – pleasurable and work-related. I’ll pull out the calendar and start looking at the fall – NCAA meetings, back-to-school open houses, soccer practice schedules and, now, class schedules for me. We’ll drift through our few summer weeks, cheer when one of our own gets married, soak in some beach time and watch some sunsets. Maybe my wife and I will get a date night in once or twice. And then it starts again.


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