Monday, July 25, 2011

Midlife and Career Changes

So here I am today thinking about my teaching career.  What brings this on in the middle of summer you ask?  Its because time is quickly going by and soon it will be time to go back.  I've spent the past few days reflecting on my career.  The break down of my career is as follows.

I will be beginning my 19th year of teaching this coming year.  Not a significant number i know, as most people reach the milestone of 20 years.  However, I am close to that.  Over the past 18 years, I have taught mostly special education, with the exception of three grading periods, in which I was a 5th grade teacher (i think this was my 5th year).  I started out in the Severe/Profound/Multiple Handicaps program, working with students who had very profound disabilities and impairments.  I did this program for 3 years, then moved into an Severe Profound Handicaps/ Mental Impairments program.  This program ended up having three students with Autism and two other students.  I did this program for 1 year and 1 grading period.  When the opportunity for a 5th grade position came open, I decided that I wanted to try the regular education classroom.  After all, my undergraduate degree is in Elementary Education.  So I changed jobs. 

Being a 5th grade teacher was such a wonderful experience.  I had nice coworkers and my stress was so reduced, that I lost 50 lbs in the time I was there.  However at the end of the year, they only needed 3 5th grade teachers and being the low man on the totem pole, I got RIFed (Reduction in Force).  I then moved back into special education at Central Preston in another self contained program. The students in that program were a lot of fun and I really enjoyed teaching them.  Other opportunities presented themselves at Central, and I moved into a resource position, and that's where I have been ever since, with the exception of one year back in a self contained classroom.  I have had wonderful experiences with my students over the years.  I've worked with students who were deaf-blind, students who were nonverbal, students who had Asperger's Syndrome and such.  Yes there have been trials and tribulations, but I love working with kids.  I have also been blessed over the years to have enjoyed working with a wonderful staff.  I have also worked with some of the most awesome parents over the years.  I think that's the difference in being a special education teacher -- that is -- you work with families as well as students more closely,  I have become friends with a few parents over the years and that is pretty special.

At any rate, 18 years of teaching passes quickly, and it seems more quickly as the years go on.  I have come to the realization that I am approximately halfway through my teaching career -- WOW!!! it really has impact now that I've said it aloud.  I guess to get to my point, I've been thinking a lot about my career lately and have come to the realization that I have a degree I have really used very little (my elementary education degree).  I find myself wondering what it would be like to teach in the regular education setting again and whether or not I could do it after so many years of teaching special education.  Don't get me wrong, I love being at Central Preston, however, there is no way I can teach in the regular education setting there, as I don't have a specialized middle school certification (I would have to go back to school - don't even get me started on the lack of cooperation I have gotten from local colleges and universities about working with an old veteran teacher to expand his horizon).

A large part of me feels that its time for a change of pace, for something different; yet there is a large part of me who is afraid (yes afraid) as I would be leaving my comfort zone.  Parts of me feel that I'm just not effective as a special ed teacher anymore and that acknowledging that feeling, means that its time to move on.  Most special ed teachers last in a position 3 years before burnout happens and here I am going into my 19th year.  I'm at a crossroads and am just not quite sure what to do.  A couple of opportunities have arisen, and I'm seriously considering making a change.  All my adult life I've put my needs on the back burner to take care of others.  Part of me feels its time to put ME first for once.  Change is scary, big, and sometimes necessary for growth to continue.   Now if I can just get past the scary part.....


  1. Hey Brian, I have only worked with you for 1 year and I just want to put my 2 cents in if you don't mind. If you want to move to the elementary classroom since that was your original intention then I think that would be great, and you know that if it doesn't work out you would always be able to get back into a special ed position. However, after teaching with you this past year I do not believe for one second that you are no longer effective as a special ed teacher. I have always felt that it takes really special people to be special ed teachers and I saw how you interracted with your students and it was easy to see how much your students (and all of the rest of the students) liked you. I know it is not easy to teach day after day in the classroom situation that you are in, but I think you are very good at what you do. So I guess what I am saying is that if you want to try another go around as an elementary teacher then I think you would be great at it and the little kids would love your enthusiasm, but please don't make the change on the notion that you are not EFFECTIVE as a special ed teacher. You are a big part of our staff at Central Preston and you would be missed, but you do need to do what is best for you. Good Luck with your decision.

  2. Have you thought about taking a sabbatical and doing something else entirely for a year? Maybe teaching English in Japan or some similar exchange program? I know for me a change of location, different people, different foods is refreshing and recharging even if it's for a few days. Sending a prayer for the strength you need to make this very difficult decision. Goodluck!