And here we are--my very first blog post! I thought I'd start off by telling you a little bit about myself and how this passion project of mine came to be.
I can look back now and see how all the winding roads, successes, & failures in my life led to the work I'm now doing, but of course during those times, it's hard to see how it's all coming together. One thing I've learned for sure is to trust my instincts because those are often the times you later realize were leading you to exactly where you needed to be. Looking back it was all like a great big treasure hunt leading me to where I am now, the work that I feel is my calling.
I wasn't someone who grew up dreaming of being a teacher per se, but I do remember loving to "play school" in my room, writing on the back of my bedroom door with chalk and pretending my diary was a grade book (perhaps the first clue on my path!). My passion growing up was actually dance--I poured my heart & soul into it until I entered college and realized that I needed to figure out what I was really going to do with my life. I was drawn toward psychology (Clue #2) so I went with that and, upon graduating, took what was probably the least logical (but most fun!) route and got a job performing at Disney World as Alice. I loved performing there but my favorite part was working with the kids (there's Clue #3!)--you can't imagine how their faces would light up when they thought they were really meeting their favorite Disney character. I enjoyed the few years I worked there, but at 25 I felt it was time to move on--I was getting a little old to be playing a 12 year-old after all. I knew I enjoyed working with kids, so I followed the advice of a friend and looked into entering teaching through the alternative certification process. I interviewed for a Kindergarten position on a Friday and was asked to start that Monday. And, with that, I was off!
This position was at a low SES school and taking over for a teacher mid-year was a challenge to say the least, but I loved every minute of it. Just like when I met my husband for the first time, I had that instinctive feeling of "this feels right", although I had ALOT to learn and I feel kind of bad for that class looking back now! Hey, at least I had heart, and that counts for alot in teaching.
Unfortunately the passion I felt for my job began to fizzle about five years into my career and I began to think about moving in a new direction. I still loved connecting with kids and the camaraderie I had with other teachers, but after years of taking on too much I was feeling drained and depleted everyday rather than energized and motivated. By the end of that school year I finally hit that energetic wall of "I can't do this anymore!" but, thankfully, I met the right person at the right time (another divine stop on my treasure hunt!).
Knowing better than to make a major decision when I was tired and overwhelmed, I decided to take the summer to step back and figure out whether the excitement I had once felt for my job was something I could get back or if it was time to move on. I worked with a local Life Coach and, through working with her, I began to see over time that it wasn't the job itself that was making me unhappy--it was the way I was approaching my job (and relationships in general) that was the source of my unhappiness. What I realized was that
1) I was totally overwhelmed with responsibilities from taking on way too much at school and
2) I wasn't setting boundaries with the people around me who drained my energy
But the overriding big “a-ha” for me was that happiness comes from the inside out, not the outside in; in other words, nothing I could have or get--no job, relationship, amount of money, etc.--would give me a feeling of contentment or peace in my life. The source of that happiness comes from the inside out. So what does that mean exactly? For me, it meant a variety of things that all came back to one central idea: taking responsibility for my life instead of blaming other circumstances and people for my unhappiness. I learned some key tools and practices that enabled me to do this and, as a result of putting those into action consistently, I found happiness not through changing jobs, but through changing the way I looked at and approached my job. I began setting limits with what I took on in order to protect my energy so that my students and family got the best of me, not the frustrated part of me left over at the end of the day. And I started saying no to the things and people who drained me in order to take better care of myself--so important in a helping profession so you have good stuff to give! The positive changes in me positively impacted those around me, including my students, because when you feel connected and inspired, you can't help but spread that light everywhere you go.
Needless to say, I experienced a pretty dramatic shift that summer both personally and professionally and the only thing that had changed was me. I posted a new mantra next to my desk in my new classroom: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Those around me must have taken notice of the change because that same school year I was voted Teacher of the Year and became engaged to my boyfriend. My outer world was now reflecting my inner world--less chaotic, more joyful, more peaceful.
This experience gave me a desire to share what I had learned with others, especially teachers, but I wasn't exactly sure how I would go about doing it at the time (Clue #4). After teaching for eight years, I was feeling the itch for a new challenge, so I continued to teach but also began working part time on a Master's degree in Education. After some trial and error with different majors, I chose Educational Psychology as my path, a subject I found really interesting (there's Clue #5). As I wrapped up my classes, I received double good news: I was offered a position at my school as Guidance Counselor and I learned that my husband & I were expecting! In December 2013 I proudly wobbled myself across the stage at graduation with a 9-months-pregnant belly and almost exactly a month later I gave birth to my precious son (the real treasure!).
Even though I loved my new position as Guidance Counselor, I decided not to return to work due to a minor medical issue my son was having at the time (which has thankfully healed!) Even though motherhood certainly kept me busy, the pace of being a new mommy was different than the pace I had been used to--lots of time to think while rocking, nursing, and driving around the neighborhood to get him to sleep!--and it allowed me time to reflect on my years teaching. I missed the connection I'd had with students and fellow teachers, but I also began to realize just how demanding that work had been. And now that I had a child, I realized how balancing motherhood and teaching must be all the more taxing! I remember seeing articles on Facebook about the number of quality teachers leaving the profession due to burnout and I was sadenned, but not surprised. It's a simple equation really...more demands+less support=burnout. It took me back to the time I had felt that way, the practices I had learned to support myself, and how the experience had turned around not only my professional life, but my personal life as well.
And that's when the concept for this blog was born--I had these tools that I believed could help support teachers and students (some learned formally through my schooling & training and others through my own experience) and I had a great desire to share.
Through many transitions in my life I wondered "where in the world is this leading to?!" and often second guessed my decisions. Fortunately I have had people in my life who encouraged me to follow my gut even when I wasn't sure why it was leading me a particular way. I look back at those "clues" I had throughout my life: playing school as a child, my interest in Psychology, my natural connection with children, and my love for sharing with others and I'm so excited now to be able to use those gifts in a way that will hopefully make a difference to somebody.