Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same

Here's a fun fact about me. I hate change. I mean hate it. I am EXTREMELY routine based and when the smallest thing is different, it throws everything off. You think I'm joking. Example #1: If the morning DJ (on-air personality? what's the PC term these days?) isn't on (sick/vacation/whatever), my ENTIRE day is thrown off. Seriously, I know that sounds crazy, but it's true. I do NOT deal well with change. I just don't. Mix that with the fact that I'm what I call a "late bloomer" and I stay in situations FOREVER. I didn't move away to college until 2 years after high school. I am a very shy girl. When I lived in the dorms I think it was a month before I came out of my shell and made friends. (Except for one guy-- my dear friend Joven who didn't care about the walls I'd built and burst through them, even if he did refer to me as "that girl that always sleeps")

Knowing all of this, I'm sure you can imagine how shocked everyone has been when they heard I decided to leave my job. (I refuse to say I quit because I'm not a quitter)

People have been trying for a long time to convince me to leave my job. Mostly because of the distance. "Even if you take a pay cut, think of how much money you'll be saving in gas!" But routine based Jessica said no. A part of it was that it took me 8 months to find that job to begin with. I'd applied/interviewed at pretty much every preschool in Fort Collins and none of them would hire me. So I wasn't going to go through that again. And as time would go on, I would eventually open up and make "teacher friends" at work. YAY! (oddly enough, that was something I really looked forward to- teacher friends I could have lunch with on the weekends)

About a year ago, I got a random babysitting job and shortly after I'd heard they wanted me to work for them when their child care center opened. My response? NOPE. Too far away and I didn't want to leave. Also at that time I was working on prerequisites and the GRE to get into graduate school. I came up with this idea to go to school and get my Master's in Occupational Therapy and become an OT for children with special needs. I could do the work I loved, and make better money while doing it. Well the GRE was hard, I found out I had to take an in class (not online) Anatomy and Physiology class (science is scary) and on top of that, my dad got really sick with his Leukemia (he's doing great now, YAY!) and with there only being ONE school in Colorado that offers OT and it being the 8th program in the country (read: very unlikely that I'd get in), I put things on the backburner. I didn't think it was a good time for me to be leaving my family and let's face it: Change terrifies me.

Another fascinating thing about me. I am a control freak. So much, in fact, that when God tells me to do something I put up a fight. My 2nd job, for example. That idea was pitched me in May. I said nope, not gonna do it. It wasn't until 2 months later that something told me to do it. Stubborn much???

I wanted out of teaching. I didn't think it was in me. I was feeling burned out and like there was something else out there that I was supposed to do. I'm always searching for "my purpose" and coming up empty handed. I hesitate to tell people what I do because teaching preschool is typically viewed as "not a real job" and just getting paid to play. I actually had a parent of a student ask me during conferences once, "So is this what you want to do or do you eventually want to become a real teacher?" Ouch. Thanks. So glad you believe in the work I am doing for your child.

So, the last time I was approached with this job offer I was given specific details. A start date, my salary (pretty big pay increase), chance for moving up the ladder in my career, etc. And I started thinking about it. And so I decided to tell them that we could definitely sit down and have a chat about it. In my mind, this wasn't me saying I'd do it or even that I was interested. Just saying that I was open to hearing more about the opportunity.

As soon as we'd set up our meeting, I found myself (without realizing it) starting to clean up some of my things in my classroom. I'd put them in my bag to take home. I realized my mind was made up.

And then Cassandra passed away. And I was so torn. Our staff turned to each other for support in a devastating time and I told myself I couldn't leave. Not now. Not with all this happening. I felt like we needed each other and I also feared that leaving would mean that I was forgetting her. I was scared. I've never been one to be super honest and say exactly what I was feeling, but in our meeting I told them what had happened and how torn I was with the decision. They were so supportive and gave me time to process everything and get my closure.

I recently changed the way I do things when it comes to big decisions. I don't tell anyone about them. The more opinions the harder it is. I want to be sure that I'm making the decision I want, not what everyone else wants. But when it came to this, I really just didn't know what to do. So I turned to multiple people. And they all told me to go for it. That Cassandra would want me to do it. But I still wasn't sold. We had plans for me to call them one night with my answer. And calling them I still wasn't completely sure what I was going to do. And while I was on the phone I heard the words Michele had told me: "Jessica, God has opened these doors for you. You just have to go through them." So I said yes.

And then I had to tell my boss. And we both cried. I was so scared she was going to be mad at me, but she wasn't. YAY! Then I had to tell my coworkers. And I cried. And every time I thought about it. I cried. Then I had to write a letter notifying the families. And I cried. And then the kids talked to me about it. And I cried.

But an interesting thing happened. When my days were numbered, I started to soak everything in a bit more. I appreciated everything so much more. The love and honesty from the kids. The chance to just be in the moment with them. The teachable moments. That's definitely something I want to work on more: Being able to soak those up EVERY day.

Leaving was hard. I've spent the last 4 years watching these kids grow. And to me, they aren't just my students. I feel like they are my friends. I know that seems weird. We've created some AMAZING memories and they've taught me about life, love and being human. And the funny thing is I keep wondering what my purpose is. And it wasn't until last weekend that I realized THIS is my purpose. There's something about being with kids that I'm just drawn to. I never really thought I was all that good at it either, but I'm starting to think maybe that thought is wrong. It really wasn't until the last few days that I started to realize maybe I'm better at my job than I thought.

My co-workers, students, parents, and even parents of former students made my last few days just fantastic. I don't think I could have asked for a better send off. I got 4 different flower arrangements. I got cards with the sweetest words. My co-teachers had my students make me a book on "Why we love Ms. Jessica" and as if that's not the sweetest thing ever, they threw me a party on my last day and had each child come up to me, tell me why they love me and give me a big hug. So.... I'm the kind of person that does NOT cry in front of people. Especially children. And I tried my best, but towards the end I was starting to lose it. Luckily, my party was thrown right before I had to go on a van run, so I got in the van and just started crying.

After work, I stayed to clean out all my stuff. It was my way to waste 2.5 hours between work and my going away dinner. And also, it gave me the chance to say some more goodbyes. As I was cleaning, kids trickled in to say goodbye and give me hugs. Still there were some goodbyes I didn't get to say and that was sad. It is my hope that the children and parents I've gotten to know the last 4 years will continue to keep in touch and let me know how they are doing.

My going away dinner was perfect. A great send off from my wonderful friends. The last few weeks I've been thinking about this shift. And it's like I've been climbing the ladder of the high dive. All that's left to do now is jump, no matter how much I want to turn around and climb back down to safety.

4 years ago I came to CW a scared, quiet, girl. Unsure of what I was doing. My first teaching job. I told myself I was nowhere near ready to be a lead teacher but thought maybe one day I would. I grew so much since then. As a teacher, as a person, as a friend. I couldn't have done it without the support of my AMAZING bosses, co-workers, and parents-- all equipped with patience and understanding. I will truly miss that place, but know that the friendships formed will continue to grow. I'm ready to fly. As scary as it may be, I know it's time.

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