|Mrs. Kniskern's Class - Fall/Winter 2006|
The week before school started that year, I had my classroom all set up, I had my first week of lessons planned, and I felt "ready as I'll ever be" to teach Kindergarten. Then, on Thursday of that week, the principal got word that she'd have to surplus a teacher due to low enrollment. I was the low (wo)man on the totem pole, so I would be the one to go. But, a new 1st Grade teacher, who lived far from the school, volunteered to take the surplus, agreeing to be moved to a school closer to her home. So, I still had a job, but not the job that I had spent all summer preparing for. Since there were more first graders than Kindergarteners enrolled for the number of teachers, I would now be teaching 1st Grade, not Kindergarten. Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm not a fan of change, but I knew that I'd better learn to be flexible if I was going to be a teacher. So, in two days, I set up my new classroom, scrambled to write new lesson plans (thanks to my awesome fellow teachers), and got ready to meet my new first graders. I have to say, I had an INCREDIBLE support system at Norcrest. The teachers there were phenomenal and they helped me with EVERYTHING. I couldn't have done it without them.
We had just returned from a Kniskern family reunion in Hawaii, so my classroom theme was "The Spirit of Aloha" (a theme that has stuck with me and has become the basis for my blog). I wanted my classroom to be a place where everyone felt welcome, loved and respected. I really had a great group of students, whose parents were supportive and active in their children's education. I borrowed great ideas (that I had appreciated as a parent) from my fellow teachers who had taught my own children. Every Friday, each student went home with a weekly report including test scores, behavior, whether or not homework had been turned in, and comments from me. Parents loved it.
As you can see - I had a lot of great parents!
As luck would have it, right about the time I started feeling comfortable in my role as a First Grade Teacher, fate stepped in. Norcrest Elementary's enrollment was too low to justify the number of teachers. There was nobody lower on the totem pole than me, so just before Winter Break, I would be surplused. They suggested that we wait until my last day to inform my students (and their parents). Dr. Nicholas (Norcrest's Guidance Counselor whose compassion really helped me through some of my darkest days) came into my classroom and told my students that I wouldn't be their teacher after Winter Break. I hadn't expected the reaction. Several students broke down and cried (some I wouldn't have suspected it from). I was very touched and felt so sad to leave them. I knew they would be in good hands with their new teacher, but many had come so far with me, it was hard to leave them. I promised that they would still see me around school, and I kept that promise by continuing my volunteer work throughout that year.
|My class LOVED to dance!|
In August of 2007, I moved back into my former classroom. A lot of my "stuff" was still there from the previous year, as I had left it for the teacher (who had moved down from 5th grade) to use. This year should be world's easier, right? I've done this before, I can do it again. I felt relatively prepared. Then, I got my student roster and all that confidence changed. I knew before school even started that I had a "challenging" class. By that I mean, several of my students had known behavioral issues. That, in itself, made me nervous and set my anxiety in motion. I tried to tell myself that maybe it wouldn't be so bad. They were, after all, Kindergarteners last year, and they may have grown up a little over the summer.
|My Classroom Library|
As I did the previous year, I had been focusing all of my attention on teaching, working from sunrise to sunset. I was exhausted and my nerves were completely fried. I felt like I had zero control of my class and I felt like a complete failure. I was barely sleeping and my anxiety had gotten so bad by the second week of school (yes, the SECOND week of school) that I was barely eating either. I was a MESS. Honestly, I felt like the living dead. I felt worse than I had ever remembered feeling when my anxiety was at it's high point. I was TERRIFIED that I would have a panic attack in front of my students. I decided to make an appointment with my family doctor, Dr. Cheatham.
|How I felt by late August 2007|
Am I proud of quitting? No, I most certainly am not. I know that my decision to leave affected a lot of people - my students, their parents, my fellow teachers, the administration...it was HARD! It was probably the most selfish decision I've ever made, but I cannot say (honestly) that I regret it. Do I regret letting people down? Absolutely! But, did I make the right decision for myself? I most certainly did. To this day, Rob tells me that he truly believes that if I had continued teaching, I wouldn't be around today. He is probably right.
I didn't hate teaching. I actually loved teaching itself - the planning, the creativity, etc. I hated classroom management. I felt completely out of control in front of a group of little kids. Rob thought that maybe I would enjoy (and be good at) directing his family's preschool. Again, I tried it...I didn't love it (and didn't think I was very good at it). It all came back to managing others. I know that I can depend on myself to do things and do them right - I am not comfortable putting that into the hands of others. It's just who I am. While working at the preschool, I had applied for a job as a Content Manager for a company that had created a cool website called SpellingCity.com. Now this job had potential! I could put my education, research and organizational skills to good use, and I wouldn't be in charge of a classroom! Unfortunately, I did not get the job, but a few weeks later, I received a call from the company asking if I would be interested in a contract editing position, writing sentences and definitions for the site. I accepted the job (knowing it was only temporary), and loved it. I was able to combine education (the parts I was good at) with editing (which I loved). It was like a perfect job for me!
|Meeting teachers while representing VocabularySpellingCity|
at national conventions is one of the best parts of my job!
To this day, I run into parents of my former students who tell me that I was their child's favorite teacher. It really is bittersweet. Just looking at pictures of my class that first year back brought back very happy memories. Even seeing photos of the class that I left (and I'm pretty sure this is the first time in five years I've let myself look at the photos) reminded me that I had some wonderful kids that year too! There is a little regret in knowing that I was never able to live up to my true potential as a teacher because my anxiety and self-doubt held me back. But just knowing that I touched even a few lives in a special way means the world to me.
I know that I'm not alone in my struggles as a teacher. I have friends who graduated college with me who changed careers and are as happy as can be. I also know a lot of phenomenal teachers who are not only great at what they do, they truly love their profession. God bless them! They deserve all the respect and admiration in the world, and they've certainly got it from me!
With Love and Aloha ~ Nancy