Eighteen years ago I decided I wanted to be a teacher. After many years in college, I entered a career in the teaching profession. Without a doubt, it was a great decision for me. No regrets about that ever.
Yet, as time goes on I am beginning to understand it isn’t about my career. When I envisioned myself teaching, it was to inspire young people to be writers in their own voice, to read and analyze wonderful poetry and then write some of our own. I have had that career in fits and starts. Probably the high point was teaching high level literature classes in high school. As far as my career goes, that was the most fulfilling. But for my creativity — not so good. Teaching high level classes is extremely demanding in time and attention. I had no creative life outside the novels I taught and the poetry we studied. There simply wasn’t time.
So, I made a career change.
I switched to middle school for many reasons, not the least was that I thought I could reach them with the writing and analysis mojo much earlier. It hasn’t exactly worked out that way. I now am teaching students who have severely low reading levels. The thought of analyzing a poem by Robert Frost would just be too much for them. I do get them writing, but it is quite basic. Creative for them, as their “level” has kept them in a non-creative, very regimented approach to reading and writing for years. It is an uphill battle for a teacher like me.
And that is where Amy Poehler came in to save the day. When I was reading her book Yes, Please, I came upon a chapter called “Your Career is a Bad Boyfriend.” She draws this parallel:
Your career won’t take care of you…Your career will openly flirt with other people while you are around. It will forget your birthday and wreck your car. Your career will blow you off if you call it too much…Your career will never marry you.
I have come to realize that my career is not going to be the one I envisioned. Not by a long shot. Amy helped me see I needed to surrender to that. Then she has the solution to the career blues.
Creativity is what matters:
Creativity is connected to your passion, that light inside you that drives you. That joy that comes when you do something you love. That small voice that tells you, “I like this. Do this again. You are good at it. Keep going.” That is the juicy stuff that lubricates our lives and helps us feel less alone in the world. Your creativity is not a bad boyfriend.
Yesterday I wrote about my desire to focus on my own creative life this summer. It is a wise move. Next school year is so up in the air, I would not even know how to begin to plan for my teaching career. We are going full-blown digital classroom. I know there are many new creative approaches that can be taken when every child has a Chrome book. I have come to the point I am looking forward to it.
Why? Because I have my creativity. The career I originally imagined doesn’t exist any more — at least not at the middle school level. To stay with the model I originally knew and loved is to sell my students short.
I found I cannot count on my career to bring me fulfillment. Only my creative life will do that. My creative life includes the writing I do, the music I play, and the lessons I plan. I am good at improvisation, and getting better. I look forward to working with a new teacher that might bring even more creative ideas. My career is not the career I thought I would have. But what I have discovered is the deep well of creativity that sustains me and keeps me afloat. It’s a full beautiful meal, as opposed to a sugary snack.
Yet, it is sweet. Very, very sweet!
Just like a woman with a bad boyfriend, the best thing I can do for my career is to ignore it for a while. Build my creative life. See where it takes me. It is the thing that will carry me into the next school year and make it work. Whenever I start feeling guilty about not “planning” for the next school year, I will remind myself that I am.
My creative life is my plan.