I never want to teach again!
These are the words I should have been sobbing in to my pillow on days I got home from substitute teaching, but I didn’t. Instead, I chinned up and carried on. However, my experience as a substitute teacher has definitely run me out of the education sector, and hopefully for good (I say “hopefully” because I do have experience and may HAVE TO substitute if I have no other source of income). I think I genuinely tried to be a good teacher, but I just don’t possess the qualities that make up an outstanding teacher. I also don’t wish I was a terrrrrrific teacher, it’s just not for me. On the flip side, I am glad I gave it a try- I gained a lot of experience and self growth as a person and as a professional.
I couldn’t quite find where I might fit into the whole picture here in that arena, mainly because I don’t have a teaching credential. I obtained my TESL/TEFL certification and went abroad for a couple of years, came back and worked at a college for international students. I got laid-off due to low student enrollment. I made the position work for me. I worked M-Th, and Sat., sometimes Friday, too. Six days a week. I was just under full-time hours. It was a contracted teacher position so they were able to get away with much more than a regular school. Under normal working conditions I would have been working full-time. Instead, I got a 15-minute break for every two hours worked. Seems fair, right? Except that the whole class was 4.5 hours, and 9 hours long on Saturday. So I have had to fully engage with students on Saturdays for 9 hour long classes, and I never got bored, so I am sure they didn’t either. My classes certainly went by fast, I kept us busy.
Had I not gone abroad, I would have never had that experience. I do not have my master’s in TESL, but since my experience commesurated with a master’s I was offered the job. Teaching abroad has definitely given me equivalent- if not greater skills than just obtaining a master’s- I say “just” because of the lack of experience teaching. A master’s degree or otherwise does not teach you how to “teach”- that is what the teaching credential is for. Luckily, abroad will take most with a Bachelor’s degree where people can gain hands-on, real life experience teaching. That’s what I did.
Although I obtained my TESL/TEFL certificate prior to my departure to China, it was only theoretical. What I mean by this is I would create (theoretical) lessons plans. Now, my lesson plans would look much differently after four years of experience teaching than they did beforehand. Only real-life teaching can give one the experience needed to be successful in the classroom. Don’t get me wrong, I had tons and tons of teacher training abroad, especially since I taught in 3 different countries and had 5 different jobs. I underwent two weeks of training for each position. That amounts to quite a bit of teacher training, wouldn’t you say? Especially considering their induction programs ran for 12 hours a day for 2 weeks long.
Even so, it takes the right person to do the job. I love working with children, but I do not have my Early Childhood Education units, and at $12.00 there is not much incentive to want to aspire as a Preschool teacher. I was an infants teacher in Japan, no problem. Hong Kong held more scrutiny over males, and for good reason. Over there, they saw a female as a more natural fit for such positions, though I had many male colleagues as well- they were just more formal with background checks for sexual offences for males than females, naturally.
It isn’t as easy over here. Not to say that it was easy over there, it was anything but easy, actually. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done. At the time I hated it, I was miserable. Looking back I am proud of myself for going there, even if it hasn’t opened any doors for me. Closed doors, and having them hit me on the way out is actually why I set out to go overseas in the first place. I couldn’t get a job without the experience, and I couldn’t get experience without the job- it was a catch 22 and I felt only as if I was losing time, my life, where was it going?… at that time, nowhere.
I was desperate for a job, and desperate times call for desperate measures. With nothing left to lose, I packed up my stuff to make the trek abroad. After getting laid-off two years ago and teaching Chess and substitute teaching for the past year, I really have had the opportunity to reconsider my profession. I was already late in life when I went abroad, so to wait until my 30s to find and change my career, and then change it again was never an ideal situation. I think I just never really had the chance to find what it is that I really want to do. I’ve had some ideas, some great, and some horrible ideas about where life would take me, but more often than not I thought I would be successful in whatever I did.
Now, teaching was not something I actually saw myself doing. I am glad I can substitute as backup, but it is not my first choice. In between getting laid-off and becomming a substitute, I actually found a new career as a life insurance agent. When I got that job I felt as though I had found my purpose and life-calling. Surely, I felt I was doing society good by providing life insurance which is something I full-heartedly believe in. It is not too difficult to sell something you believe in, if you can imagine. Unfortunately I got in with the wrong company, and that did not work out for me.
Before I went to China, I wanted to be a car salesman, and I think sales is “it” for me. I would love to be a writer for a brand or company, but it doesn’t have to be limited to that. As I said, I thought I found my lifetime career path when I found the life insurance agent position. I have honestly never been as proud of myself as I was the day I passed my license exam with the state. I never studied so hard in my life. When I got the job, I never worked so hard before in my life either. I worked 6 days a week, about 60 hours a week, but I put in extra time for PR. Yes, I thought that it was too extreme, I had heard of living, breathing, eating, sleeping your job before, but this was WAY BEYOND that, it was like that and THEN SOME. It was all-consuming, to say the least. But I wanted to be successful and I was so happy to have found a career, even if later in my life that it didn’t even seem like I was putting in 60-80 hours per week, I was on cloud nine floating in pure bliss, until I didn’t receive the payment I deserved, and then my dreams came crashing down pretty fast. It was after two devastating financial disasters, after living off unemployment and having them not pay me twice within a four month period. To hit financial disaster #3 in a mere year’s time was something I did not want to face, nor did I want to believe.
I denied for a long time that I was being taken advantage of because it was too painful of a truth for me to face in such circmustances. Being in financial ruin and feeling that I was finally going to make my way up the ladder in life- in my career- having my dream-come-true turn into too-good-to-be-true was soul-crushing. I still mourn the loss of that career, not in the conventional sense since they DID take advantage of me, but it’s like a relationship not working out when you really wanted it, too. It hurts. Like a child losing it’s grasp of a balloon- and having to watch something he loved float away, I just kind of watched my career float away like that.
I could go back and remember how I spent my last money on the classes, how I had to borrow money from my church to get licensed, and money from my boyfriend for everything else. I had no car, I was SOL. I believed in myself, I knew I would be successful in such a position- but for putting in 80 hours a week, and getting next to nothing in return was not going to work out for me. Yes, I was a profitable asset to the company, but like any pyramid scheme I was at the bottom working the hardest for people at the top to tap into my income and distribute it as they pleased. I still believe in life insurance, but not everyone I meet is going to be like me- an honest life insurance agent. I know that sounds funny, but they do exist, just like honest car salesmen and honest taxmen and other honest people in fiduciary positions, as oxymoronic as it sounds.
So here I am again, headed towards the unknown. Chess has ended, and substituting so too will end come summer in a couple of months. What will I do? What… will… I… do… ?… ?… ?…
It’s a question that has been perplexing me for months. To prevent another pivot hole would be nice, but there is no way to guard against unemployment.
Find your heart and you will find your way? I continue to hope, and pray, and search, and ask for help, and to pray for help. But, I know that life doesn’t come knocking on your door with a neon sign with the name of your career on it. That’s not the way it works either. Am I not looking in the right places? Am I not asking the right questions? All of these things I have to wonder. Yet, it is not summer yet. I only hope to substitute to be able to pay my bills until I find a new job. I do not want to be destitute at the mercy of my piggy bank, again, to depend on whether I can afford to eat or not. I was lucky to have cashed in my change for $22 to afford to eat, literally going from nothing and not knowing how I would next eat to coming up on $22 from my change purse… I do not want to go through that, again. I make financially sound decisions. But when you go broke any and all purchases will come back to haunt you, no, I do not feel that way, sorry but having some earthly comforts is actually necessary.
Back to making a living.
Teaching is not a bad career choice, I have talked to some people and this is what they tell me. And, yes, they are right. Especially considering the holidays. The holidays and summers off are the only things I really consider to be good about the job. Other than that, getting hit in the head with an eraser, having students in the 2nd grade, and 3rd grade yell at me for one reason or another has not been pleasant. After I write my report to the teacher and give it to the office to give to the teacher, and knowing that they all read it, and further that they probably feel bad, or might, is like “ouch!” I don’t want them to think I am a masochist for continuing to go to work to be treated in such a manner, seriously. Who knows if anyone really reads any report at all, that part is just speculation, but still. Maybe they are used to it. One substitute I spoke with on our break was like “I am never coming back here!” Substitutes are notorious for being walked all over. In the student’s mind they are never going to see you again so they try and get away with whatever. Putting your foot down only leads to further resistance, and there is no real good approach to take. They don’t care, you are not their teacher anyway. Needless to say, I am repelled from the teaching industry because of my experience substitute teaching. I am happy to have had the experience, but after tial and error it is not for me.
Would I say the same about life insurance? No. Time wanes, though, and the years will continue to go by. In your 30s, you have to make every year count. Even a rotten year in life insurance is still a year for the books. Believe me when I say that someone who has been in their business for 40 years, as opposed to somone who has been in their business for 4 months- it makes a difference. It is called credibility, and career changes do not look so credible either. So call me crazy for saying, you have got to find something and stick with it. At this point, I will take almost any full-time position, as long as it is not teaching. 35 years old and I have still not found my career. Yes, I travelled, which is great, but my opportunities are not greater than anybody else’s. The U.S. makes things hard, even for the qualified, it is all just a money game. Thousands on education, on cars, clothes, travel, self-improvement, and where has it taken me? In the eyes of society, I am a 35 year old trying to find a job. Shouldn’t a person of my age and qualifications ought to have figured it out by now?…
I suppose it all depends on who you ask. There are songs about the most interesting people not finding a career until 40, so I still have faith in myself that I will be one of those… and hopefully find a niche for myself or a cool career because that would be all kinds of nice. So let’s all keep our fingers crossed that I do not have to suffer anymore ankle-biter abuse as a substitute, and can cross paths with something a little more kind.