Getting gutsy is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals and live a life that makes you truly happy. This post is my entry for Jessica Lawlor’s Get Gutsy Essay Contest. To get involved and share your own gutsy story, check out this post for contest details and download a free copy of the inspiring Get Gutsy ebook.
So 2014 didn’t go quite as planned. As some of you may remember, around this time last year I had big plans to go back to school and to continue to find myself as a person. I was enamored with the city of Houston yet feeling unsatisfied with my job. I thought returning to school was the most logical step, but I was unable to get all of my ducks in a row (as my mother would say) in time to make continuing my education a reality this year.
Instead, I did the opposite and quit my job.
I say “quit,” but that is inaccurate. I downgraded from a full-time teacher to a substitute and a tutor. The tutoring has helped me to remember what it was I loved about teaching, and consequently, it has helped me to determine a new personal definition for “getting gutsy.”
“Getting Gutsy” means to not give up on your hopes and dreams, even if it requires you to look in new directions for your path.
You may be wondering how can I say not to give up, when I technically gave up on teaching. Well, it wasn’t that I gave up on teaching, I gave up on a failed system. I saw something that was broken, and after more than 2 years of trying to fix a broken thing, I became aware that all I was accomplishing was breaking myself. Instead of fixing the system, the system was twisting me into an angry, bitter person who hated the thing I’ve always wanted to do with my life: help young people to be successful.
So I did the difficult thing: I quit. I said “no more,” and I turned in a new direction. I walked away from my job, my apartment, my overly active social life, and began a phase of introspection that has shown me that I miss teaching, really teaching, not the strange facsimile of teaching I was being forced to do at my old school.
I put my stuff in storage and moved around the city from hotel to hotel trying out new locations to see where I fit best. I started tutoring as my primary source of money while I subbed from time to time. I started a writing project that’s been rolling around in my brain for over 12 years now. I contemplated giving up teaching all together and beginning a new career in an office somewhere.
I thought about finding a way to work from home somehow. My mother has become a brand partner with Nerium, so there’s an option. Or my Artist friend asked me if I could make tutoring my full-time job. I used to sell Premier Designs jewelry; I could pick that back up. There are lots of ways to make a buck here or there… There’s even a way to teach from home, which seemed the perfect solution, if only I had the funds to make it a reality.
But it was the tutoring that did it. The tutoring made/makes me the happiest. I love seeing when one of my kiddos gets a thing, when the pieces finally fall into place and the light bulb comes on.
And it proved to me that I CAN teach.
I had begun to think I couldn’t do this job that I felt called to do. I had become frustrated with the teaching of grammar and syntax and reading comprehension because I wasn’t seeing progress. Then again, I wasn’t being allowed to do things my way.
My way embraces creativity and exploration, which is what the Finnish system is based on (Finland has officially the best school system in the world). Instead, I was being forced to conform to a very left-brained, formulaic, notes-and-worksheet-driven style of teaching that is boring and does NOT promote higher order thinking.
I was being forced to fit my round self (no fat jokes please) into a very square hole, and it just wasn’t working.
Education is meant to be about the students and helping them to grasp concepts that are new or difficult. Many schools focus on the Test, and racing to fill a child’s head with information without truly giving him or her a reason to want that information. Children are surprisingly logical, and if you give them a reason for learning, they will embrace it. How could I give them a reason for learning if the test was the only reason to learn? I don’t believe in the test, therefor I don’t believe in the reasons I was teaching.
Tutoring reminded me what teaching was really about. Thus I began putting applications out to other districts, and now I think I’ve found myself a new job, one where they’ve promised to give me the freedom to do things my way. And at a higher wage than I was making before.
A friend of mine told me he was proud of me for holding out until I found the right job for me. I didn’t lower my standards, and I didn’t give in. To an outsider, it may have looked like I had given up; it certainly felt as if I’d given up. Now, on the other side of it, I know that I had refused to accept a life less than what I deserve.
It hasn’t been easy, but the right decisions rarely are. There have been some really hard times during this leg of my personal journey, times when I thought I wasn’t going to make it or that I was completely alone, but I did make it through.
Now, I’m about to start 2015 with a new dedication to education, in a new school (hopefully, I haven’t received the final word as of yet), and with new prospects for the future. Even my love life is looking up (I met an architect who thinks I’m beautiful), but that’s a post for a different day…
Just remember: determination and the ability to stick it out through the tough times is what “getting Gutsy” is truly all about. Never give up on your dream, no matter how unrealistic you think it might be at times. When faced with a challenge, it’s ok to take a step back to reevaluate your situation, to determine if you are on the right path. And if you aren’t, walking away from a mistake is gutsier than staying in a bad situation. Just never give up hope!