Life After Teaching, Part Four: Five Little Things I Look Forward to at My Desk Job

In the first post of this series, Rose shared the story of how her office job lets her ease into the workday, go to the bathroom whenever she wants to, and enjoy other simple pleasures that weren’t part of her previous life as a high school biology teacher.

Two-and-a-half months into my desk job, I can confirm that it’s all indeed possible: I now get bathroom breaks whenever I need them and much, much more.

Here are five small perks of my new office job:

1. Enjoying breakfast at 9 a.m. 

Usually it’s a big bowl of Fage with strawberries:

yogurtandstrawbs

This is a big deal for me. When I was teaching, there were years when I taught three, 40-minute classes in a row starting at 7:55 a.m. (with homeroom in between). Lots of days, I hadn’t had anything to eat by 10 a.m., and also hadn’t gone to the bathroom until then. If I had been more of an adult (and more of a morning person), I would’ve gotten up earlier to eat a proper breakfast, but I always chose sleep over eating and looking nice for school.

Now, the first thing I do is eat breakfast while working at my computer. This takes much less energy than trying to speak in coherent sentences and motivate teenagers before any of us are awake.

2. Enjoying lunch every day

Since I’d usually sleep rather than get up early to prepare food, on busy days I’d get the cafeteria lunch, which some of my co-workers wouldn’t touch. The chicken patty sandwiches and pasta with meat sauce weren’t bad in my book, but they were not particularly healthy or satisfying.

Don’t get me wrong — we had our share of good food in the English department: ordering in from the local Vietnamese restaurant, bringing in goodies for birthdays — and cook-offs, too (including who could make the meanest chili). For a few years, my awesome department got me Popeye’s fried chicken (my favorite) for my birthday!

But it was rare that we got to just enjoy our food and each other’s company. On most days, it was a fistful of food in between taking attendance, grading essays and quizzes, or blowing off steam after some earlier incident in the classroom.

Now, I leave my building every day around 1:30, take a short stroll to my local bodega  and bliss out on a hearty helping of fresh veggies and roast chicken or baked salmon (I’ve managed to sidestep the fried chicken for now).  It’s tasty, and sure beats the many school lunches I’ve settled for.

3. Reading a book at lunch

I love this one so much. Right now, I’m reading The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley on my Kindle. Reading for pleasure while eating used to be one of my favorite things to do, and I’m happy to welcome this habit back into my life. Again, way more enjoyable than trying to read and grade three essays during lunch (and belated apologies to students who got their essays returned with grease stains on them).

4. Having a window near my desk, and a pretty nice view from it

Staring at cinder blocks and a sad, beat-up desk was the norm in both of the public schools where I worked. In my first school, we used to be able to look out at the baseball fields, but then they constructed a new wing that blocked our view.

Now, I get to look at this every day:

officeview

I realize that a lot of people in office jobs don’t get windows or a nice view, either, so I consider myself doubly lucky in this respect.

5. Having a clean, spacious and functional work area

I never had my own classroom and, in the department office,  my plastic crates  crowded my feet. Not to mention the piles of papers that would slowly consume my desk space, making the task of grading them even more unappealing. In my first school, all twelve of us in the English department had to share two desktop computers, along with two old laptops that were always on the fritz.

And did I mention the mouse problem? No kidding: we had to clean up mouse droppings regularly, and the janitors tried to find creative ways to kill them (drowning, if you must know). My school was in a very nice town too, and in nowhere near the level of disrepair of Trenton’s schools.

True story: once, when I reached for the emergency bag of peanuts that had been sitting on my desk for the better part of the school year, there was nothing inside it. A mouse had chewed a tiny hole in the back of the bag and eaten everything, leaving only shreds of foil that I hadn’t seen until I lifted the bag.

Now, I’ve got my own computer, phone and corner cubicle with lots of room to do my work. And thankfully, there is nary a mouse in sight. I’m even thinking about decorating my office space with photos, and possibly plants!

So, while my office perks don’t include catered lunches, foosball tables or masseuses, the little luxuries I do enjoy make working so much more pleasant than it used to be.

(Former) teachers, which small pleasures do you enjoy (or wish you could enjoy) at work?

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20 thoughts on “Life After Teaching, Part Four: Five Little Things I Look Forward to at My Desk Job

  1. I enjoyed reading this, mainly because I found myself nodding along in agreement all the way through – except for the mouse part! It’s nice to know that others have gone through similar experiences, for similar reasons and arrived at a more comfortable place. You have a very interesting and helpful blog.

      • I am loving reading your articles. I have been teaching for 27 years. I truly need to get out but cannot figure out how. What is a teacher qualified to do outside the classroom? I have plenty of education and experience, but it is all in education. I can’t seem to be able to take that first step.

  2. Pingback: Life After Teaching, Part One: Four Reasons Why I’m Better Off | Those Who Teach

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  6. May I ask what kind of desk job you got? I’m trying to find a different career with my teaching qualifications and skills. Would you mind telling me how you transitioned into a different job?

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  10. I quit teaching in the UK and now care for Dementia suffers. Far more rewarding and certainly less stressful. This new job uses all those people skills that everyone used to tell me made me a great teacher. Like you I find my work now has boundaries, I clock on and clock off and get breaks. But what I really love about this job is when I put an evening in to make my groups lives better by organizing a sixties music day or how we used to live sessions I get thanked for my extra work! I no longer nurture new minds but care for failing ones and that is much more rewarding.

  11. Hi there. I’m finding this blog a couple years after you wrote it! I’m struggling right now to decide whether or not to leave the profession of teaching. This post confirms that which I’ve been dreaming about: going to the bathroom whenever I want! breakfast! reading a book at lunch! (are these things even real?!). In another post you wrote about feeling like you lost your nobility… and this is a huge struggle for me. What good can I do outside of the classroom? I’m fighting for what I believe in now, what will I be fighting for in a desk-job? But then, I’m reminded that I’m so far from the best version of myself right now due to the burn-out of this work and I will be able to do so much with the energy I will gain from being out of the classroom. Thanks for writing these posts and acknowledging publicly this struggle of this decision. I hope you’re well!

  12. I have read this blog numerous times this past school year. I continue to struggle with the decision of what to do with my career. I was a career changer already- was in the business world for 4 years and then became a teacher. I’ve made it through 2 years, and I am so tired. I’m tired of the job itself- the work, the constant stress, always feeling like I have to perform at my best, the lack of “independence” during the work day. Yes, I love having the summers off and breaks, but the part I hate about it is that you go from running a million miles an hour to nothing. It’s such a vast difference, and I am a person who likes consistency.

    My contract was not renewed at my current school, and I am not at this point in my life where I can take two paths- stay a teacher or find something else (more than likely a business job). I struggle with it everyday, but I feel like I’m leaning toward a desk job. I struggle because I love helping people and teaching people, I love talking about my content area and researching lesson ideas. But, in the end, I don’t think it’s worth all the stress, disappointment, and lack of respect/accolades that I put up with almost everyday during the school year. At the same time, I feel like I’ve invested all this time and money to become a teacher, and now I’m just throwing it away. I am hoping the time off this summer will allow me to reflect on what will be best for me and that I can get past the guilt of possibly leaving the field.

    I appreciate all your posts because I know I am not alone. Thank you for saying the things I’ve been thinking for the past 2 years. I don’t feel like a failure when I know that there are many others who are in the same situation.

    • Kim let me know what you do! I too struggle with this! Working a million miles an hour then summer comes– nothing. I like consistency I also want a job I don’t have to take home with me. A job where there aren’t meetings all the time. A job where I don’t feel like I haven’t done enough. I’m all for growth and learning, but to feel punished. Emotional and physically. I’m afraid because I do like teaching reading but the expectations are burning me out. I want an hour lunch. I want to be able to eat breakfast. I want to have my hobbies back.

  13. I really wanted to quit my job, as an English teacher. But it kept me thinkihg what am I going to do with my education degree and what company could hire me with such degree requirement?

  14. It is so nice to hear from someone who has been contemplating whether or not to retire from the teaching profession. This upcoming school year will be my 25th year as a music educator. Although I have enjoyed teaching the children music and watching them grow into young musicians and young adults, I feel that it is time for me to hang it up. The truth is that I am tired and just simply burned out. Teaching music does not interest me any more. I mean I enjoy music, but I want to pursue other interests. I have discovered that over the years I enjoy other areas of creativity. Songwriting and Creative writing are two areas that I have decided to pursue.
    Anyway, I feel like I have taken care of everybody else over the years and now it is time to take care of myself. I am a widow with no children. My husband died from colon cancer in 2007. My mom died from breast cancer in 2014. I have no mortgage payment and no car note. I had to make a choice: Do I live to retire or retire to live? I chose to retire so that I could live longer. You see I just turned fifty in June and I am not in the best of health. The teaching profession is not helping my physical health at all. I find myself eating unhealthy because everything is always so rushed trying to make it to work on time or make it to a meeting. And most times when I get in from work, I am simply too tired to cook.
    I have read and listened to everyone’s perspective on retirement and I have appreciated everyone’s imput. But at the end of the day, I decided that I am the one who has to decide. I am the only one who knows how I truly feel in my own body. I have to decide what is best for me. Today, I made that decision. I will be retiring at the end of this 2016-17 school year. I am at TOTAL PEACE with my decision. I want to live to enjoy ALL the seasons of life and not just the summers.
    Again, I appreciate reading your blog and getting your perspective. I hope my post will give someone else a new perspective on their decision to retire from the teaching profession.

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