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Beach Clouds

{image by CubaGallery}

Back in 2006, I spent my first (and last) year as a classroom primary school teacher.

It was hard. HARD. I was hired on what they call ‘Day 8’ in Queensland – the 8th day of the school year when they re-count the enrolled kids and shuffle kids around according to the true enrollments, rather than those they had at the end of the previous year. I was hired on Tuesday and on Wednesday afternoon I was standing in front of a mixed class of Year 5/6 kids who’d all been ripped out of their single-grade classes to join my newly created multi-age class.

They weren’t happy.

I was freaking terrified.

Unlike every other teacher in the school, I hadn’t had 6-8 weeks to prepare the term’s lesson plans/behaviour  management plans/get to know my kids.

Nope. It was “hi, brand new teacher! Here’s a bunch of disgruntled kids… have fun!”

And not only that… I had to make sure every lesson and unit was modified to work across 2 grade levels!

I did the best I could, but it was one of the most stressful months of my life.

The rest of the year followed, and I very quickly realised that I wasn’t cut out for this traditional classroom teaching gig. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the actual ‘teaching’ thing – seeing a kid have an ‘aha’ moment when they finally grasped a concept; leading discussions about new (to them) topics; even the madness of running a science class (okay, especially the madness of running a science class).

But everything else? The never-ending planning; the constant behaviour management; dealing with parents who either didn’t seem to care or were over-the-top helicopter-types; all the irritating meetings… nope. Not my cup of tea.

I dreaded getting up in the morning. DREADED it. I stayed up as late as I could manage of an evening just to delay the inevitable.

I would go for walks on the beach with my then-partner (also a teacher) and stare at the horizon, thinking “this is NOT what I am meant to be doing”.

During this time, the only way I managed to cope was to remember one of my life mantras, and repeat it to myself constantly.

Will this matter in 5 years? Will I care about this decision in 5 years?

No?

Then STOP stressing about it!

Stop obsessing. Stop second-guessing. Stop worrying.

Just move on.

Stop worrying about what this parent said. Stop stressing that you can’t ‘fix’ this kid. Stop freaking out that your lesson plans aren’t perfect.

You are not perfect. No-one is perfect.

Just do the best you can while retaining your sanity.

However… what if your decision is ‘yes – this WILL matter in 5 years’?

That’s when it’s time to act. To let the stress or excitement propel you on to a new path.

By the end of the year, I knew I didn’t want to remain a classroom teacher. I had spent WAY too many days having to rely on this mantra to keep myself sane and relatively happy. I knew that while each little thing could be overcome with this mantra, the bigger issue could not – my inherent dissatisfaction with my job.

I knew that if I stayed on this path, it WOULD matter in 5 years – it would probably result in depression (runs in my family) burnout, or a breakdown – I’d seen it happen to other teacher friends already.

So – I found and applied what looked like a really cool job – a travelling teacher with a Biotechnology Exhibit run by the Queensland Museum (I’ve got a Science degree, too).

I got the job.

That year started out as one of the worst of my life (as my partner of almost 8 years and I parted ways) and turned into the best year in my life up to that point (I made a life-long friend… through whom I just happened to meet Nick, my husband, in July of that very same year).

Choosing to follow my heart and move on from a career (and relationship) that wasn’t what I truly wanted was the best decision I ever made.

Using this mantra to guide my decision helped me step onto the path that I am on today – and I could not be happier.

So – how about you? Is there something in your life that you need to apply this mantra to?