Stating my Intention

I have a few things I’m working on right now, but I don’t want to write about them yet. For some reason, with these particular intentions, I feel more determined to prove that I’m serious about them by actually sticking with them for a month or two before I talk about them. I’m not sure why the prospect of revealing what I’ve done is more enticing than stating that I’m going to do it, and then following through. Maybe it’s that I feel so determined to accomplish these few goals; plus I have other avenues of support to hold me accountable. All I know is that I’m enjoying holding these few goals close, keeping them to myself for a bit, and anticipating the joy of eventually exposing them to the light.

There is another goal though, one I do want to share. I’m feeling a lot more tentative about this goal. I know it’s something I want, and frankly need, to do, but it scares me. A lot. I’m not quite sure how to proceed with this goal, and I do feel I need support, and to be held accountable. It would be easy for me to walk away from this intention without even taking the first step. That’s why I’m stating it here, for you all to read; I’m hoping you’ll help me hold myself accountable. And I want a reminder of why I’m doing it, for those times when I get cold feet.

This spring, I’m going to look for a new job.

That sentence was way harder to write than I realized.

I’ve thought about making the move to high school for a lot of years, but there have always been reasons to stay. Those reasons still exist, but each is a little less compelling that it has been, and cumulatively, their hold is not as strong as it once was.

There are a lot of reasons I’ve stayed at my job for so many years. I want to list them here because it’s important to acknowledge them for what they are. If I don’t write them down, I worry their allure will burgeon, taunting me to stay, as my fear grows.

Reasons I’ve Stayed at my Job

  • I like teaching Spanish, and the other classes I’ve taught over the years have kept me from getting bored.
  • The staff is great; there is a real sense of community.
  • My mom is on campus and I love visiting with her every day.
  • Decent commute.
  • They have been VERY accommodating with my schedule.
  • I’ve been teaching these classes for so long that they require very little prep (less work to do outside of school).
  • I feel capable in this position and it’s comfortable and easy to stay.
  • I’ve enjoyed the increased responsibility as English Language Development Coordinator.
  • Good salary (as far as teachers go).
  • Professional autonomy–I can teach what I want (mostly) and how I want to teach it (completely). I don’t have to answer to, or deal with the politics of, a foreign language department.

The reality is, I have a really good thing going here, and I recognize that. Ever time I’ve considered looking for a high school position, I’ve weighed the possible pros and the probable cons and determined the negatives outweighed the positives. There is so much to love about my job, I figured that at best it would be a wash.

So what has changed? Two things: I’m increasingly dissatisfied teaching this age and grade level. This year over half of my day is spent with 6th graders, and I don’t love that. 6th graders will always be a part of my day here, and even if I got to teach only 8th graders, I’d still want to teach older kids. After 12 years at the middle school level, I’m ready for more mature, capable students.

I’m also getting tired of teaching such a low level of Spanish. It’s just not very interesting. I can never teach anything higher than Spanish 1 here, and most of the day I don’t get to teach even that.

Other things have changed as well. Many of the reasons I loved working here just aren’t as… compelling anymore. The sense of community I used to feel is not nearly as strong as it once was. In some ways I isolated myself with weird schedule requests that brought me closer to my family while creating distance from my colleagues. But it’s not just my own self-imposed isolation: the culture has changed. Most of it trickles down from the district level, but there are issues with our administration as well. Our staff used to be a cohesive unit, held together by mutual respect and real friendship, but those bonds have been denigrating for a while. The sense of belonging I used to feel is not as strong as it once was.

It’s the little things too. My mom retires the year after next so that reason for staying will be gone soon. The few friendships I’ve attempted to make with my colleagues have stalled out, and turn over is low, so work friendships aren’t a reason to stay. Most schools only honor ten years of service in a prior district and I’m already at 12; if I wait much longer the chance I will have to take a pay cut grows. (The only reason I hope I might not have to is that in most districts high school teachers make more than lower grade teachers.) Also, I wasn’t sure until this year where my daughter would be going to school; now that I know she’s not in my district I have the freedom to find anywhere on the peninsula.

There has been a final compelling reason I’ve stayed at my job, especially these last few years: I’ve been waiting for life to get easier. I have two young children right now and life at home is exhausting. Time is at a premium and the idea of having to start over somewhere new, with all the prep work that entails, has been overwhelming. I figured if I waited a few years, evenings would feel more manageable and I’d feel more capable of tackling the increased work load of a new job. But the more I talk to the mothers of older kids, the more convinced I am that I shouldn’t wait until it “feels easier.” Sure there will be a time when my kids don’t need me to usher them through every part of their bedtime routine, but by then they will also have commitments outside the home that require I sit at lessons or classes, or at the very least shuttle them to and fro. I’m probably never going to have appreciably more time than I have now, so I need to quit waiting for the elusive couple of years when things are “easier.” Working full time with two kids is never going to feel easy and I’m never going to feel totally capable of starting from scratch at a new job, so I should just bite the bullet and do it now.

That doesn’t mean I’m not terrified of what starting over somewhere might entail–because I am. But I’ve never let fear keep me from attempting something important and I’m not going to start now.

And that’s the thing, this is a start. I don’t have to accept a new position this year, I just have to apply and interview (if anyone wants me to). One of the reasons I want to start now is so I have plenty of time (years, if need be) to find a position that feels right for me. If I wait until I’m miserable at my job, and feel like I have to escape to save my sanity, I might accept something that isn’t a good fit. So I’m going to start this year, see what positions become available, and see what high school salaries look like when you’ve been teaching middle school for 12 years. I can’t take a pay cut, at least not without creating considerable financial stress for our family, so there may not be much I can even consider. But that is all part of taking this first step–ultimately it’s a fact finding mission. If I think of it like that, it doesn’t stress me out so much.

Schools don’t usually start posting jobs for the coming school year until March or April, so I have a few months to work on my resume and learn how the application process works. I’m not projecting any expectations into the future, just focusing on each step as I tackle it. Hopefully, I will learn something valuable this year, so that eventually I can find a job that is more satisfying.

I know some of you are educators–if anyone has made the jump from middle school to high school and can enlighten me on some of the differences in teaching at those levels, I’d REALLY appreciate it. And if anyone has any tips on job searching, applying or interviewing, I am all ears. I haven’t looked for a job in a LONG time. I need all the help I can get.

17 Comments

  1. I went the other direction — high school to middle school. I really think it depends on the teacher’s personality. High school was a terrible fit for me. I just don’t care about assessment and grades, and that is in the forefront of the student mind during that age because they’re thinking about college. Instead of focusing on how they felt about the novel, students would gather in my room to argue grades or ask how they could get more points or extra credit. That wouldn’t bother someone else, but it bothered me enough to drop down to middle school. I loved middle school. But that’s what I mean — what fits one teacher wouldn’t fit another.

    1. What grade(s) did you teach in high school? What grade(s) did you teach in middle school? This is really good to know. Thank you for telling me this. I hadn’t even considered that aspect of the change (though I am dreading what I assume will be increased stress about grades, because transcripts will in high school will be more important than for middle school–I worry about parent “involvement” for that reason as well).

  2. I think this is great. If you are not happy in your current job (which you don’t seem to be), the only way that could possibly change is to look to see what else is out there. It doesn’t do any harm and if after some hours of searching/applying/interviewing you decide that you have it best at your current job then you can stay there. Good luck!

    1. “It doesn’t do any harm and if after some hours of searching/applying/interviewing you decide that you have it best at your current job then you can stay there.” <-- I'm wondering if this will end up happening. But even if it does, it's worth it, because then I'll KNOW that this was the end result, and not just wonder. If I don't try I'll always wonder what could have been.

  3. Way to go! I support this decision (like you care lol) I find it, because I’m going through this, being comfortable in one’s position & environment makes the change hard. I give you huge, huge! encouragement for stepping outside the box, new possibilities, etc. I wish you luck with your resume writing & job finding!

    1. It is really hard. I am SO comfortable here. I’m going to need to find a good position to feel compelled to actually leave. We shall see.

  4. I taught MS and then jumped to Elementary. Totally not what you are looking for, but I will say the challenge of a different grade level and collegues was an adjustment. The amount of prep time for a new grade level was also difficult for me, but I enjoyed the challenge and working with the younger kiddos! There is something about MS kids, their hormones, attitudes that can be hard, but they have such personalities and can be so fun!
    My hubby teaches both MS and HS and actually prefers MS students. He struggles a lot with the HS students always being gone for sports, or other activities/clubs during the week, so he is constantly playing catch up with the absent kids which requires lots of time and prep on his part. His HS classes though, he receives a stipend for the extra hours he puts in and also gets reimbursed for travel between schools which is nice, but he has often said he would love to stick to strictly teaching MS if he could.
    Best of luck and sometimes job changes can be SO SO rewarding and you are right, there is never a good time to do it. There is always a reason to “stay put” so to speak, but a challenge/new grade/school/students is often a great opportunity to grow and meet new people too!

    1. I really appreciate you sharing both your experience and your husband’s. Any insight on how these kinds of transitions have been for others is so helpful. Thank you for taking the time to tell me how it was when you moved from middle to elementary school and the pros and cons your husband notices between the two. Very, very helpful.

  5. I am a product of Unified school districts so H.S. pay was not higher for the same teacher at different grade levels. I strongly encourage you, as a first step, to get salary schedules and look at commute distances/times for the options around you. Sounds exciting and interesting.
    Also look at teaching/user manual work/tech phone support at a tech company. At some companies this actually does not require computer programing skills but skill at using their product. Lots of those companies in your area and while the hours are different from on-school site grounds the pay differential might make it a totally new opportunity.

    1. I will definitely be looking closely at salary schedules and I already know what districts are outside of an acceptable commute distance. I don’t think I’ll be looking at tech company positions yet, as I’m not ready to lose my summers with my kids yet. Maybe some day. 😉

  6. You’ve taught middle school for a long time – that is God’s work, my friend. I think teaching high school will be a great change for you! Looking forward to hearing about the process. Good luck with your other intentions too!

    1. Thanks. I’m already second guessing if it’s the right move, but I’ll only be more sure as I work toward it, and gather more information. In the end I want to know if it’s something I’m really interested in (or not) so that I can stop wondering if it’s a move I should make, and if so, when. Either way, I’ll be in a better position for having tried.

  7. What does that mean they only recognize 10 years of service?

    Good luck. I know how hard it is to leave something comfortable.

    1. Teachers get move on the salary schedule in two directions, horizontally and vertically. Horizontal moves are based on continuing education credits (random college courses you take for professional development or the credits earned for a masters) and vertical moves are based on how many years you’ve been teaching. Most districts will honor your years teaching at another district, on their own salary schedule) up to ten years, so if you’ve been teaching for longer than ten years you might make less at your new job, if the salary schedules are comparable. Luckily most high school districts have better salary schedules than elementary districts–so even when I’m bumped down I still could make the same–though if it’s a Unified district (K-12) that isn’t necessarily the case.

  8. Taking a decision like this, and putting it out there, is the first, and often the hardest, step. I’m delighted for you, as you are obviously not happy doing your existing job, and in my book, life is too short to spend around eight hours a day working somewhere that makes us miserable. I’m exciting for your future. When the nerves go, I’m sure you will be too!

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