A Fork in the Road

I was one of those kids who always wanted to be a teacher. Sure, there was a year or two in there when I got really good at chemistry and watched too much CSI and wanted to be a criminologist. But that passed pretty quickly and I dove headfirst into becoming a music teacher.  I picked the right school. I took the right classes. I studied and worked instead of having fun. (I mean, OK, I had some fun. But not as much as most people did). I did everything I could to prove I would make an awesome high school music teacher, and then my supervisors in college promptly assigned me to elementary and middle school for student teaching because my adviser said (and I swear this is true) "you're so small, won't you be intimidated by those big high school boys?" 


So I student taught middle school and didn't hate it. I did hate teaching elementary school, not that anyone listened to or believed that. Who doesn't like elementary school and/or who likes middle school kids?! *raises hand* I like middle school kids! Anyway.  

I got a job teaching middle school band. It was awesome. The band program I walked into was a hot mess, but over about five years that included a lot of work, many pep talks, equipment upgrades, extra after school rehearsals and arguments with parents, my program soon became heralded as the best of any of the schools that fed into the local high school. Then the job started changing. Soon I was teaching general music too in addition to my instrument lessons, and not just for middle school students. By my next-to-last year of teaching, I was teaching kindergarten, first, third, fifth, seventh and eighth grade at two schools on a rotating schedule while writing the general music curriculum, covering classes, and barely finding enough time to eat or think let alone teach the band students, my passion. My 8th year of teaching, my hours (and thus my pay) were cut, but I still had the same amount of classes to teach. Finally, the position was cut all together. 

I'm not cliche enough to say, "Losing my job was the best thing that ever happened to me!" It wasn't. It sucked. BUT by the time my position was removed, the job also sucked. I was teaching hour-long kindergarten classes with hardly any help and students who would regularly hit or spit on me. The teachers and administrators I spoke to about these students told me (again, true 100% real quote) "That's what they do when they get angry." Terrific! 

I spent the rest of the school year after I found out I "wasn't being re-hired" and the following summer applying and interviewing for teaching jobs. I had spectacular letters of recommendation, a glowing resume, and a platoon of people telling me how amazing I was and how quickly I would find a job. As it turns out, a whole platoon of people can be wrong all at the same time. It's been a year, and gainfully employed I am not. 

I was on the fence about whether or not to stick with teaching for awhile. I had dedicated my entire life up to this point to teaching - could I just stop? Well, turns out the answer is both yes and no. I have happily walked out of the classroom (with my middle finger in the air - metaphorically, in case anyone was watching). But I still give private flute lessons. And soon I'll be putting my almost-complete English degree to good use and providing SAT tutoring. And most importantly, I have my theatre program. 

Because as it turns out, I don't need to teach. I need to create. Creating I can do, and not just by writing on my couch. Over the past five years my tiny little under-funded theatre program with a wing-less stage in a multi-purpose room has gone from nobody-from-nowhere to one of the MUST SEE shows of Spring musical season in my area. It was hard. I wanted to quit a lot. But I didn't, and thank goodness for that, because now not only is my program genuinely spectacular, it still fulfills my need to teach and create at the same time. 

Theatre people are my people. I work with two of my best friends as the other thirds of my directing team. I work with a community theatre in the summer. I listen to musicals in the car, and go and see them as often as my tiny budget allows. There's lots to be said about why theatre is awesome, and we'll save that for another post, but suffice it to say I have found my place, and its near (though not on) the stage. 

The rest of my need to create is fulfilled through writing. My blog posts on this website, the book review blog I used to run (you can still check out my old book reviews through My Portfolio). And since my theatre job is not full time and only pays like two bills, I am pursuing a career as a freelance writer. Talk about a life change! It's hard. Since I'm still new to the game it takes me a long time to write things others can do in minutes. It's frustrating. Many jobs require experience, which you can't get without a job, but to get a job you need experience... (and so on). I worry about money quite a bit. BUT I can set my own hours, work out of my home office, finish my new degree, play with my pets, and maybe even someday write my own novel. 

Do I miss my classroom? Not really. I miss my band. Those kids were awesome. I miss the regular feelings of success when they would "get" something that challenged them for a long time. But I still get that feeling of a successful performance with my theatre. And I don't have to write lesson plans or proctor standardized tests, both BIG wins in my book.  

So yeah, life has made a pretty major change. And there are still days when its tough to cope, and I wonder if I made the right choice. But most of the time I am content and happy to be where I'm at, freelancing, theatre directing, dog walking, and blogging. 

Oh, and what did I say when my adviser said I was "too small" for high school? "Well, I've been small my entire life and I'm not intimidated by everyone who is taller than me, so I don't know why high school boys would be any different." And now I'm teaching high school theatre. So joke's on you, Nameless Adviser! Tell me what else I can't do please.