Friday, September 12, 2014

Why I Worked, Part 6: My Last Year in the Classroom

Part 1 here, Part 2 herePart 3 herePart 4 here, Part 5 here

Going into my final year of teaching, I didn't exactly know it would be the last year...

But the summer alone with the kids gave me confidence in my ability to take care of all 4 of them by myself without going insane.  We had settled into a routine, and things were going well!  And then, of course, it was time for school to start again.



For the first time ever, I wasn't entirely excited to go back to teaching...  I'll be the first to admit that I don't enjoy the baby & toddler stages as much as many moms.  But now I was starting to have big kids, and parenting them was more challenging but also a lot more fun!  And after a whole summer with them, I knew that staying home full-time wouldn't drive me as batty as I thought...

One of the best things about being a teacher is having the summers off to enjoy your kids.  

One of the worst things about being a teacher is that once you've finally settled into the routine of being a stay-at-home mom, it's back to work.

Who wouldn't miss those smiles?

We found an awesome sitter on Care.com, and knew immediately that she was perfect for our needs - she had worked in the infant room at a daycare (taking care of 4 babies at a time!), and was working in the preschool room currently because her boss thought she was too creative to be "wasted" on babies!  And since our home was practically a daycare, it was an ideal situation.  Gone was the old sitter, whose issues keeping the house picked up and arriving on time caused no small amount of stress for us...



We were up front about it to begin with, I was probably going to stop working this year or next year.  But I still kind of thought I had one more year in me after this one - we were planning on homeschooling John Paul, but he didn't really *need* anything academic from me, so that could wait until he was at least 6.  So two more years of teaching would be fine, right?

And baby plans were kind of on the horizon - the twins were almost 1, my fertility still hadn't returned, and 2.5 years seemed like kind of nice spacing, right?  So I figured I'd teach this year, get pregnant next fall, and finish off my teaching career and then have a summer baby!

Ah, plans...

The year started off really well - I was SO glad to be back with my students, back with adults, back to using the bathroom by myself...  My choir girls sounded GOOD.  And they were so sweet!



It was tough to leave scenes like this every morning, but I had signed a contract, and I had to stick with it!

But the end of November came and things kind of fell apart...  My dad passed away suddenly, so I was left helping my sister plan the funeral while also trying to do last-minute prep for a big assembly and our winter concert.  Oh, and grieve...

It was at this point that I think being at work really got me through things - I worked with amazing people who helped cover my classes, and being away from my foursome at home made it easier to grieve because when I'm upset I need to be alone.  So I think it really saved my sanity being able to kind of escape from things.

But I still wasn't healed, and I just wasn't all there with my students anymore...  And I didn't feel like I was all there at home.  There wasn't enough time to do all the paperwork at school, to take care of all the purchase orders, to enter the student data into our system, to file the music in our library, and I just wanted to teach.
And at home it was always such a rush to get out the door, get people dressed before the sitter was there, try to find a way to shower, get lunch made, etc.



Then on top of it all, we had a record number of snow days that year.  Every time we got into the rhythm of things at home or at school, another late opening or snow day messed things up AGAIN.

Life was just a constant cycle of hanging on for dear life and trying not to fall down on EITHER job!

Not to mention a change in administration at the school had led to a classroom management nightmare - the new principal decided that now cell phones were allowed everywhere in school, and couldn't be confiscated by teachers in the classroom.  No, we had to write kids up and let the administration deal with it if it became a serious problem.  Who exactly has time to add all that paperwork to their already-full load?  Cyber bullying became a more and more obvious problem because kids were writing nasty comments on each others Instagrams during school and letting the drama into the classroom.  And instead of talking to their friends, they were sitting around with earbuds in listening to music or watching movies.  Or maybe watching movies together, sitting there and not talking.

Depressing.



Staying home full-time began to seem like a more and more attractive option.  But health insurance.  How in the world were we supposed to pay the $1200ish/month that it would cost if we went off of my work plan?

A friend mentioned that she had just enrolled in Christian Healthcare Ministries, and we met to discuss how exactly the program worked and what the costs would be - suddenly staying home seemed possible!  I had no idea that programs like this existed (basically you cover preventative care and the first $300 of any incident, and your "premiums" go towards sharing healthcare costs with other members - really, look it up because I can't explain it well yet!), and it would cut our healthcare costs down to about $300/month, which is what was already coming out of my paycheck.

The only catch?  Maternity coverage wasn't included until you were enrolled in the plan for at least 300 days.  And my fertility had just returned.  I did a quick cost analysis in my head - I already knew we weren't pregnant this month, but if we got pregnant this month it would cost the same amount to pay for a few months of COBRA coverage to reach the due date that it would to start CHM coverage.

Shocker, we got pregnant.  And realized at that point that another year teaching wasn't going to happen!  We were in the middle of a super-busy time at school, so I didn't want to shake things up and add more stress to my already overworked high school counterpart (and department chair), so right after we finished up with our next set of concerts, I let him know that I wouldn't be returning, in the hopes that they could find a replacement for me soon so that I could tell the students I wouldn't be back while also saying, "But hey, look, this awesome person is coming to be your director!"

Weeell, public school bureaucracy being what it is, they couldn't actually hire the person they wanted to hire until the school year was over.  And it was only March.  And I was only like, 6 weeks pregnant or something.  So I dressed to hide the bump, and avoided the awkward questions from students (some of whom were definitely catching on), like, "When are you having another baby?" "I don't know, sometime in the future..." "No but WHEN? Like, what DAY???"  #subtle



I was ready to be fully present at home - sure, I was getting it all done, but at what cost?  I'm not one to get stressed easily, but this was a really trying time of getting everything done at work and also trying to give the kids everything they needed at home.  John Paul's behavior was suffering, there were tantrums every morning when I left and every afternoon when I came home, and I was ready to be done.  The decision was made, but I still had to finish out the school year!

I went to work and acted like I'd be back next year, because I wasn't going to check out and leave them to coast for the rest of the year.  I maybe overcompensated with some seriously difficult music when they should have been coasting...  I finally announced the pregnancy on the blog, thinking eventually they'd find it and start asking even MORE awkward questions, but nobody took the bait!

Actually, some of them DID find it, but were too polite to say anything because they didn't think it was any of their business.  Seriously, these girls are the BEST.  They give you hope for the future of girls everywhere!

We went on our end-of-the-year trip to an amusement park and the next week, now that ALL our concerts were over, I finally let them know that I was pregnant.  And not coming back next year.

"But you'll be back the year after that, right?"

"I'll have 5 kids.  So...  No."

Thankfully, they were not too shaken up about it - one of the nice things about teaching middle school is that it's only 2 years worth of students, so either they'd only had me for a year and weren't too attached, or they'd had me for 2 years and were moving on to high school.  Not earth-shattering news for these sweet girls!

A few weeks later school was out, and I packed up all my things and left without a tear shed - it was time, and I was ready!



No more missing the awesome sibling bonding going on all day while I was at work!

Up next: Thoughts on why it took so long not to be afraid of staying at home, the transition to staying home full-time, and why teaching in public schools made me more committed to homeschooling
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