Regrets: But I Can’t Go Back, and I Don’t Want To

I’ve never bothered much with regret.  Perhaps it’s a pride thing (after all, to say you regret something means you’re admitting you did something wrong…), but I think regret is a waste of time.  You can’t change it anyway, so why bother regretting it?

I moved to North Carolina to teach at a public school in Charlotte in August, and I moved back to Erie a mere six months later.  I spent a lot of money moving down there, and I spent another good chunk moving back up north.  I’m sure to some people that looks like regret — I regretted moving south so I moved back north.  Well, it’s not.  I don’t regret moving to North Carolina.  It was something I had to do.

When you make a decision, you obviously have reasons to do so.  You may change your mind about those reasons later, but at the time, you had your reasons.  So why should you regret it? I had to go to North Carolina.  I was working in a private school, and at the time I believed it “didn’t count” as real teaching.  “Real” teachers were public school teachers, and you weren’t a real teacher ’till you taught at a public school.  In Pennsylvania it is very difficult to get a public school job — there is a ton of competition, first of all.  Then there are some districts that only hire people who went to the school, whose parents teach at the school, etc.  And there are other districts who only hire people who are in no way connected to the school (such as the district I was raised in and worked in for five years).  On top of that, I was just itching to get out of Erie.  I had lived in Erie my whole life, had gone to college and grad school within fifty miles of the city, and was worried I would never get out.  At that point in my life, I had to leave, and teaching in North Carolina was the first opportunity I found to do that.

While I ended up hating my job down there and moved back north just six months later, while I’ve lost money in the moves and have had to go back to substitute teaching up here, North Carolina was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in terms of my own personal and professional growth.

Personally, for the first time since I really entered the “dating world,” I didn’t care about having a boyfriend — moving gave me distance from the stupid non-relationship thing I was doing with a moron up here, and it also gave me time to get over the real three year relationship I had ended the year before.    When we broke up at the end of 2011, I jumped right in to seeing someone else to help me forget about the one I really loved, and even when I knew that new person wasn’t right, I didn’t want to be alone.  Erie held too many memories of the guy I thought I was going to marry — from grocery shopping together at Wegmans to gardening/landscaping together in the front yard.  However, in moving to North Carolina, I rid myself of the moron, I separated myself from all my memories of the love, and I was just plain old too busy to even think about dating anyone else.  I discovered I’d rather hang out with my friends on Saturday nights than go meet up with some guy and have to make awkward conversation for an hour.  I got back into crafting in my free time and started my Etsy shop, Eva M Designs.  And this new independence followed me back to Erie when I moved.  Moving to North Carolina was something I had to do.

Professionally, I learned more about the “art” of teaching and classroom management than I would have learned in years up here (mostly because you had to learn to survive!), and I know I am a much better teacher now than I ever was before (and considering I had always had good observations before, I think I’m going to be pretty excellent now!).  I also realized what I had had up here at that private school I didn’t think was good enough.  I realized how important it is to have supportive administrators, and I learned what questions to ask and what things to look for as I seek out a new position and interview potential bosses. (Haha, flipped that one around!)  I realized that public school teaching is NOT for me,  considering the directions public schooling is moving towards. Frightening.  Finally, I realized I’d rather be poor than miserable, and I can’t wait to get back into a private school and share all I learned from my brief venture into public school.  I don’t care what they pay me – I’d rather get to teach and enjoy it.

So instead of regretting my adventure in North Carolina, I prefer to look at all I’ve learned from it and know that it was something I had to do.  I had my reasons for it at the time, and I never would have been satisfied until those reasons were addressed.  There are plenty of other situations in my life, actions I’ve taken, roads I’ve gone down, that sometimes I wonder if I should regret.  But I always remind myself that I had my reasons, and I would not be the person I am today if I had not made those decisions.

But I can’t go back
And I don’t want to
‘Cause all my mistakes
They brought me to you.

Great Professional Development — and No, I Don’t Even Mean The Drinking Kind

Today I had a very exciting day of Professional Development.  — I’m not even being sarcastic.  I really had a great day in a PD workshop.  I’ll admit, part of that goodness is the fact that I had a “kid-free” day.  Now, I don’t mean to sound like I don’t like being with my kids.  That’s not the case at all.  But being with my kids every single day, good and bad, can be wearisome.  When I am running around like a crazy person, finishing plans, writing PEPs, entering grades, attending PLC meetings, grade level meetings, parent-teacher meetings, intervention meetings, IB meetings, and PD workshops – it is easy to get run down.  When I am getting up at the crack of freakin dawn to work over-12-hour days with literally no breaks (nope, not even lunch breaks), and then you throw in thirty adolescent girls and boys with language and ability challenges, motivational issues, family and home life crises, social dramas and mood swings, it is easy to forget what I like about teaching.  And that is a whole lot of effort to put in to something I’m not really caring for.  At that point, we’ve reached a real problem.

So, the point is, it is nice to have a day away–to recharge, to remember what I like about teaching, and to see someone else doing it.  Aside from the “recharge” value of the day off, it was really nice to hear from other teachers who are facing the same challenges I am.  It was a relief to know that it’s not just me, that I don’t just suck at teaching (seriously, that was a real concern).  It was also great to spend some time in someone else’s classroom, to see what other teachers are doing and how they are doing it.  The “Master Teacher” we observed to day was so impressive. The way she interacted with students and the way students behaved in her classroom–it was so quiet and calm and orderly.  I dream of having a class like that!!! But like she said, they didn’t come to her that way.  She had to teach that behavior and it took time and practice.  Thus–there is hope for us all!

 

Something I found quite interesting: Several of the teachers at this workshop were from my own school.  They teach a different grade level, but their rooms are just down the hall from me.  I was shocked as I listened to them recount their experiences so far this year.  They said they felt “alone,” “abandoned,” were “drowning.”  They felt like the administration was not providing them support, was overly critical, was even disrespectful in the way they addressed the teachers.  Seriously, I was shocked as I listened.  I had been telling my family, my friends, etc. how lucky I felt to be in a school that was providing me so much support. Between my Assistant Principal, the Literacy Facilitator, and the few veteran teachers on my content PLCs, I always had someone to turn to–and someone who really knew what they were doing.  While I had once felt like those teachers at the workshop (just a few weeks ago), my experience has really turned around.  I mean, I’m not going to argue–my classes definitely need fine-tuning. A lot of it. That said, I am able to teach now, and I don’t leave work frustrated and tired with a headache and sore throat.  Having come so far as a result of the support I have received, it is crazy to me that someone just a few doors down is having such a different experience.  It definitely has made me appreciate what I have, and I’ll be sending several thank-you notes tomorrow!

Additionally, listening to these concerns many teachers are having with their administrators has been a big reminder that “honey attracts more flies than vinegar.” (Is that the correct saying? You know what I mean.)  Encouragement and praise are much better motivators than criticism–not just for kids but also for adults.  I know when I receive praise, I find myself working harder just to make sure I am deserving of it.  Criticism, on the other hand, can just break you down.  Considering the nightmare of my first student teaching experience, I of all people should remember that (by the time I finished student teaching, I had decided I never wanted to teach again–and this was not at all the result of the students I taught but rather the teacher I worked with).  Anyhoo, it was a good reminder, and all in all, a very worthwhile PD Day!