Life After Teaching, Part Six: Five Things I Learned in Year Two

As I got dressed for work one recent morning, my husband glanced at me. “That’s a teacher outfit,” he said. I was skeptical at first: The black cardigan and blue silk dress was an ensemble I’d worn many times to school, but what was so special about it? When I looked in the mirror, though, my clothes did read “English teacher” somehow.

the outfit that gave me away...

The outfit that gave me away

Two years out of the classroom, my closet is still full of “teacher outfits”: sensible sweaters, knee-length skirts and flats. As another school year has ended, I’ve wondered: how much does the teacher in me still show — and how much of the “old me” has been boxed up for good?

Here’s what I’ve discovered in my second year after teaching:

1. I miss being around kids.

There were many days when my students’ teenage attitudes and behavior — and my responsibility for their actions — wore me down. When I started my office job, I rejoiced in my newly calm, predictable work environment. In the past few months, though, I’ve been missing interacting with young people. At their best, teenagers are sweet, silly and spontaneous in a way that puts water cooler conversation to shame.

2. I miss being a mentor.

I also miss the exciting exchange of ideas that could happen in a stellar class, and the satisfaction of helping a student. It’s why I applied to be a mentor for my local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters last fall. Since March, I’ve been meeting with my Little Sister twice a month. Anna is 12 years old and loves to climb, run and play basketball. I enjoy talking with her about what’s going on at school, helping her with her homework and encouraging her to be assertive and considerate of others.

3. My memories of teaching are fading, for better and for worse.

I remember being up all night thinking about some disaster at school — like a failed lesson or uncomfortable conversation — and how I should have handled it differently. Now I’ve forgotten most of the names of the students involved and many of the details of what made me so upset.

Not surprisingly, I’ve also been getting much fewer school anxiety dreams. I still got them regularly last year, but now they pop up once every few months.

On the other hand, I’ve also forgotten a lot of what and how I taught. When a co-teacher I’d worked with told me she still uses the modified essay assignment we’d created for our ninth graders, I didn’t remember it at all. Worse still, I’m forgetting key lines, names and other important parts of stories I used to teach three times a day. I can still recite the Prologue from Romeo and Juliet, but even that may be gone soon, too.

4. I still think of lesson ideas and how I could’ve been a better teacher overall…

This New York Times story about an English teacher who used rapper Kendrick Lamar’s music to help his students appreciate The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison made me feel all tingly inside — and wish for another chance to do Morrison’s Song of Solomon or Kindred by Octavia Butler justice.

I also continue to think about what I could’ve done to reach more students and make teaching more enjoyable. This post I wrote about work-life balance, for instance, helped me understand how cultivating positive relationships with more students — and bringing more of my personal interests to the classroom — would’ve helped relieve the stress I felt.

5. …But I’m glad that grading is gone from my life.

Despite what I’ve lost by quitting teaching, I continue to be grateful that take-home work is no longer part of my job. Last summer, I wrote about the joy of having no more papers to grade, ever. This summer, I still love the lightness of my work bag: just my phone, keys, wallet, food, and a book to read during my lunch break. This, to me, is one of the main reasons why leaving teaching is still worth it.

Next time, I’ll talk more about how my life after teaching has developed — and how I’m still figuring it out.

Related

Life After Teaching, Part Seven: Five (More) Things I Learned in Year Two

Life After Teaching, Part Five: Why I Don’t Need Summers Off Anymore

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

Life After Teaching, Part Three: Yup, I Joined the Club.

Life After Teaching, Part Two: Four Reasons Why I Miss Teaching

Life After Teaching, Part One: Four Reasons Why I’m Better Off

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14 thoughts on “Life After Teaching, Part Six: Five Things I Learned in Year Two

  1. Thank you for these reflections. I’ve been thinking lately, related to your point 1 about missing being around kids, how strange it is that we’ve managed to create societies where students-equal-children and they are in schools all day, most of the year. There’s a very real chance, now, that people never get to know any kids until they have kids themselves.

    • That is so true, Leah. I had never considered that before.
      There are little girls in the building next to mine and they now capture me daily with hugs and demand I watch their cartwheel shows.
      I swear we have teacher pheromones that never dissipate!

    • Hi Leah,
      Thank you for reading and commenting!

      You make a great great point that I hadn’t considered before, either. If people were more exposed to kids — including kids other than their own — I wonder if they would show more empathy and support for teachers/education in general.

  2. You’re the best! Your blog has been so helpful to me as I’ve made the transition out of teaching and into an office job. I wonder if I’ll start missing being around kids. Right now I’m thrilled to be away from them, though keep in mind I taught the primary grades for 14 years. Right now I’m in the “rejoicing in my newly calm, predictable work environment” phase. And speaking of clothing, I was thrilled to immediately ditch all my teacher outfits. I’ve really missed “dressing up” and am so happy to be able to look a little more put together throughout the day. As for your point #5, I too am enjoying the “lightness of my work bag,” both literally and figuratively.

    • Lilly,
      Thank you for your kind words. I’m so glad that the blog has helped you and that you have been enjoying your new job.

      What a change from fourteen years with primary-age children! I can definitely see why you would appreciate the chance to dress up now, along with the other perks of office work.

      Congrats on finding Life After Teaching, and welcome to the club!

  3. Well, I am deciding whether to retire or not, and I ran across this nice blog. If I do retire, then there won’t be the extra planning, papers, evaluation (we have a very comprehensive one in our state), and all the other stressors that comes with teaching. I still enjoy teaching the kids but all the other “stuff” that is put on the teacher’s plate is pushing me to retire. I have one month to decide, and, it’s a tough one.

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for sharing your story. If you haven’t yet, check out the comments from the first Life After Teaching post — they might help you with your decision. You may also find inspiration from this interview with Marie, a retired teacher who found a second career that allows her to teach without all the stresses of the classroom. Best of luck to you!

  4. I still dress like a teacher as well! I work in nonprofit so am often more dressed up than others. I am still drawn to those cardigans. 🙂
    Two years out, I still love how long weekends feel and the joy of not doing reports or revising virtual stacks of essays every night. Teaching MS English sometimes feels like groundhog day!
    But, most of my career was spent overseas in international schools, so the life I gave up is still winning out right now in my heart. That being said, I still can’t bring myself to walk back into the classroom despite lovely offers.
    I might retrain as a librarian because I do miss my colleagues and the kiddos. And I still love education! And, if I’m totally honest, I miss the money (international teachers…and teachers in Canada…make significantly more than American teachers).

    • Hi Paula,

      The librarian route sounds perfect for what you want, and all your teacher clothes would make the transition seamless. (Those cardigans are just too comfortable to give up…) 🙂

      Thanks for reading and sharing — and good luck with your next step!

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

  6. Pingback: Life After Teaching, Part Two: Four Reasons Why I Miss Teaching | Those Who Teach

  7. Pingback: Life After Teaching, Part Five: Why I Don’t Need Summers Off Anymore | Those Who Teach

  8. Pingback: Life After Teaching, Part Three: Yup, I Joined the Club. | Those Who Teach

  9. Pingback: “I Hate Teaching”: My Most Popular Search Term in 2015 | Those Who Teach

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