I woke up anxious; I dread the thought of having to go into work. Who should have to put up with that abuse? Who should have to tolerate being disrespected by rude children…CHILDREN! Then have to deal with a staff that was complacent doing the bare minimum and a leadership team that spoke terribly about one another, not to mention the things that my “support system” here was saying about me behind my back. I mean I have a strong personality, mind, and spirit and that place was crushing it. “This cannot be my reality,”I thought. But it was.
My boss who I had loved working with for the past two years was promoted. This wasn’t the first time they tried to pull her away from the elementary setting and move her to a middle school. But this was the first time in two years that they had actually succeeded. It’s not even like she wanted to go. We were entering our third year together as the leaders of an elementary school and finally had the staff, school culture, and parental support we needed to make this third year everything we hoped for year one. But feeling pressured by her superiors, she said yes. She moved on and complained from the second she got there. She would run back to visit the elementary school during the first month and quickly started requesting I join her. Her intention was to always take me with her but I had already committed to being at the elementary for another year. It’s where my heart was and quite frankly I never cared to deal with middle school students. After finding money in her school budget she again begged for me to join her for fear that she would not be able to survive the year with the current administrators she had in place. So after four months of her flying solo, I agreed to join her.
Why did I leave my happy place? Why did I not commit to completing the three years at the elementary level as planned? Why did I go knowing I was going back to putting the 12 hour days in?
Well, because she said she needed me and I felt a sense of loyalty and responsibility to help. But what about what I wanted? My vision?
At the time she convinced me with the idea that the experience would benefit me when I was ready to lead my own school. Knowing that taking the next step to become a principal wasn’t in my plans why would I tell myself that was a good enough reason? Well…maybe because I didn’t want to tell myself the truth that I was trading her happiness for mine, that I somehow felt obligated, like I owed her something.
What did I owe her when I had given her so many of my hours….Unpaid! I had worked long days and nights, every Saturday for tutorials, and ran the school during her medical leave? What the hell was wrong with me?
It didn’t take long after the move for me to become unhappy. To put it short, the other instructional specialist that I was once excited to work with, and finally be part of a team rather than be the only one as we had been at the elementary level, hated me. They hated my boss and hated that she brought me on. They spread lies, were disrespectful, and didn’t help to make my job any easier. The staff was surly and averse to hard work. The children were the most disrespectful bunch I had ever come across and reacted better to being treated like inmates than when shown respect. One child asked why I didn’t curse at them like the other teachers; as if to say I didn’t speak their language. I wish I was making this stuff up.
It didn’t take long for me to become annoyed with the number of teachers and the administrators calling out on a regular basis, the rude tone and looks teachers gave me (even as their supervisor), or the parents that wanted to attack me for assigning an appropriate consequence to their devil of a kid. This is not to mention the shooting that occurred right outside of the building or witnessing a teacher almost fight a student. This is on top of feeling like I was now beginning to resent my boss who was constantly making me miss my appointments to cover for someone else not being there or asking me to work during the one day I was actually sitting to eat lunch. Yup that’s right I never really have a lunch so to tell me to watch the little demons transition during my scheduled break time, that I never take, really pissed me off. So much so that I said I would be leaving campus from that day forward to ensure I had at least 30 minutes to fulfill a basic human need, but I never did. Once my face began to break out in hives due to the stress I knew I had reached my limit. What the hell was I doing here? I did great work, I use to enjoy my work, and believed in the potential of children, and even loved my boss prior to this. This place was crushing me. I knew I had to get out.
I took the time to really consider what I wanted in my next job. For starters I was done with the 12 hour work days. Working without taking lunch and being surrounded by people who didn’t strive for greatness in their quality of work. Sadly I knew that it was time to leave the field of education or at least in the traditional sense of being based at a school; because if not, I would never achieve the balance I so desired when I first moved to Texas. The truth was I got what I tolerated. I had tolerated being overworked and underpaid. I had tolerated the small signs of disrespect along the way. I had tolerated the fact that my time was not valued. It was my fault.
I then decided that I wouldn’t tolerate it anymore. I told my boss I was leaving. I’ve told her at least three times since then and she still struggles with the idea. In the beginning she tried to convince me saying that the bitches (my words not hers) on the admin team wouldn’t be there and that I would make more money blah blah blah. None of it mattered. I was done. I was not going to tolerate it anymore. I would finish out the school year, break my contract since I was hired in January, and find another way to support myself.
I thought about what I enjoyed and could see myself doing for free. I didn’t mind hard work or long hours if I felt there was a greater purpose, but I wanted work that felt like play and paid me what I’m worth. I wanted to work on my terms. I wanted to use my current skill set and learn a bunch more along the way. I wanted to have great influence and affect change. I wanted to help others feel as good as I had just months before and have often felt when I looked at my life and accomplishments. I wanted others to feel that sense of pride in themselves. I knew that I would leave that environment and walk towards something so exciting and great that I could only feel pure joy. I thought back to a note I wrote over 18 months ago. It was such a big idea that it had felt silly to even share for a whole year. But now I was committed to making that idea real and forever saying goodbye to a job I tolerated.
“You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control what it means.”– Tony Robbins
Having that negative experience challenged me to reflect and search for more. More than I thought was possible. Staying at the elementary school would have been easy. I would have been moderately happy and might have stayed much longer. So for that reason I’m thankful for that bad move that led me to want more. I am confidently saying goodbye to my life as an instructional specialist and eagerly await to see what doors will open for me. I have unwavering faith and have no doubt that God will direct me to the next great thing.
Moving Forward: Is there any part of my story that you can relate to? Have you ever done something because you felt obligated, but it went against what you knew was right? Use such opportunities to propel you to the next level and bravely move in that new direction with confidence. Choose to use negative experiences as fuel to propel you to higher heights.