Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Is It the Right Time?

time Recently I got a discouraged email from a friend who is unhappy at her current position and has been offered a position in a different district starting immediately and didn’t know what to do. I have another friend who is extremely unhappy with her position and says that if she isn’t offered a different position, she may quit teaching permanently. I have another friend who is leaving teaching to start her own catering business.

Earlier this month I read What Would Make Me Leave the Profession

from Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs by K who talks about leaving the classroom. Read the post to see what reasons K would leave.

These conversations made me think about working in a place/position where I’m unhappy. I think life is too short to stay in a situation that makes me miserable unless I knew it was only temporary. I have transferred from three schools during my public school career and each time I left because the Principal expected me to lie. Above all things, I need to be true to myself and losing my integrity for the sake of a job was not worth it to me. I was lucky enough that when I was unhappy with a situation or position, I worked at finding solutions to my problems because I wanted to stay at that school. I looked for people to support me and help me find the solutions necessary to make it a win-win situation for everyone. But I never could find a solution to lying.

At the beginning of my career, one principal wanted me to lie because he was stressed out and couldn’t stand up to fighting for the truth. He felt that I was still so new at my job (I had been there three years) that I would do whatever he asked if I wanted to keep my job. Needless to say, I needed a principal with some backbone and leadership skills so I moved on.

The next school I was at was a move from elementary school to high school but I enjoyed this switch more than I expected. I thought that I would give it a year and if I didn’t like it, I could always move to somewhere else. Unfortunately the principal that hired me moved on to greener pastures after a year. The new principal had different ideas and management styles but I could live with that. Until he told me that I had to lie to a group of parents about something being my fault even though I had proof that it was his fault and not mine. He stated that if I didn’t lie, it would be a sign of insubordination. Even though I had been there for six years, I decided it was time to send out feelers for openings elsewhere. Within hours, I was offered a job in another high school in a different district and got a higher salary.

The next school I was at was wonderful and I stayed there for eleven years and two principals. The last principal wanted me to lie in court. I loved this school and my colleagues but I was not going to jail because the school would come out looking bad. In fact, the student was right and I was being called in as a character witness. The principal wanted me to lie about the student and not say that he was wonderful, well behaved, polite, straight A up until this small act of rebellion. He had his hair shaved into a Mohawk and refused to shave it off as requested by the administration. Then when he used some profanity on the bus, the school had him arrested because he was 18. All of the other students on the bus admitted to using profanity but no one else was arrested or received any disciplinary action. When I explained to the judge in his chambers that I needed a note to cover my absence from school because I felt I would need documentation after my court statement, the judge was quite upset and actually called my principal and reprimanded him for trying to intimidate a witness. In fact, the words “contempt of court” came up in the conversation. Needless to say, it was time to move on again.

Now I was truly crushed because I thought that school would be the one I stayed in until I retired. I loved the kids, the parents, my colleagues, my courses and everything else about it even though I drove almost an hour one way to work.

Yet I was truly lucky because another high school really wanted me at their school (especially since I had won the state special ed teacher of the year award the year before). This school went out of the way to see how beneficial it would be if I taught there and anything I asked for was worked out. I truly felt this was a dream come true and I stayed there for 7 years before I retired. What I had thought was a nightmare at first became a Godsend. I had great students, great classes, great colleagues, and was only 15 minutes from my home. Sure, it wasn’t perfect because nothing ever is. It had its rough times and tough situations but nothing that I couldn’t live with.

So as spring arrives, and contract tensions arise, many teachers are wondering if they should transfer or quit. I think it is important to ask many questions first.

1. What would you gain from a new situation?

2. What would you lose?

3. What is the worst thing that could happen?

4. Could you live with the worst thing happening?

5. What do you really want?

6. If you found out that you only had five years left to live, how would this decision affect you?

7. I really think it is important to remember that life is too short to be miserable. But is your situation temporary or permanent?

8. Are there solutions that could take place that would make your current situation better for you? Have you talked to anyone about making these solutions?

If there are no solutions and you are truly unhappy, it is time to seriously think about finding a new position or school. Unhappiness is like an infection and will be evident to your students, their parents, your colleagues, your administration and nothing beneficial will come from this unless you take action. It is scary to move into a new and unknown situation but you owe it to yourself to have a successful career that makes you happy.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'SAF#2' by: Roberto Ferrari

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi Pat What a great post! After twenty nine years at my school which I had loved and been fiercely loyal to, last year things became all the things you wrote about and I actually looked over the fence and applied for a job in the private system. I went for my first job interview( yes I have been living in a cloud) and was offered a job at a top girls private school with a 1:1 laptop policy.
The first term has just finished and I am still processing the huge changes, but I do know I did the right thing and feel so much better about myself in so many ways. It has been a very big ride indeed.