Right out of college I worked at small, marketing research company in Northern Kentucky. It was all women, three of whom smoked actual cigarettes and had real ashtrays at the their desks, in an office they shared with all of us, like an all female version of Mad Men. Aside from the second-hand smoke, it was an interesting job that I really enjoyed.
But despite the good money, the experience, and proximity to LaRosa’s Pizza, I felt the beginnings of what I can only explain as a calling. The first I’d ever experienced. A small voice that whispered to me while I was filling out Excel spreadsheets. A quiet knowing that bubbled up as I was falling asleep. A distraction that caught my attention in the late, overtime hours.
You were meant for something different.
Visions took root in my imagination of classrooms full of children. The tiny moments of realization and learning in a young mind flashed before me… something that I had not experienced, and yet could fully see and feel. The heavy, precious privilege of responsibility for teaching small people blossomed in my soul and grew so wildly and huge that I could no longer ignore it.
I spoke it out loud. And it felt even more true. I didn’t really understand it, I just knew that it was something that I couldn’t not do.
My dad suggested that instead of jumping right back into school, that I take some time and make sure that this was what I wanted. Which was good council. I quit my job, got one as a lead teacher in a daycare, and never looked back. Not even when I had to borrow money from my then boyfriend, who is now my husband, to pay rent. Not even when I had to move back in with my parents while I started my Masters degree and planned a wedding. Not even when we moved to St. Louis and I had to finish my last two classes at St. Louis University while substitute teaching.
In Montessori, which is what I studied while getting my Masters in Education, they taught us that there is a spiritual transformation when becoming a teacher. I thought back to those whispers in that smokey office and knew that nothing in my life had felt more true.
After several years teaching in preschools and substitute teaching in a variety of public school classrooms, we moved back to Cincinnati and I started my first real-life teaching job in a Montessori school. It was hard and consuming and demanding and amazing. It filled me up in ways that I never could have imagined. The only thing that would surpass it would be the birth of my own child.
I’d always known that I wanted to be a stay-and-home mom, a decision made easier by the reality that with my salary being what it was, we’d be paying more for childcare than what I made.
Through the many years that have followed, thoughts of teaching again crept into my mind occasionally. But there was never a good time. We moved to Italy and then back again. I started blogging and fell in love with writing. I was always coaching someone at something.
I spent so many years assuming that when an opportunity presented itself to you, it was a sign to take it. And so I spent a lot of time saying Yes to things before I realized that sometimes the opportunity is set before you so that you will learn how to say No. Moreover, we had worn deep grooves into the patterns of our life and me being at home was a central part of that.
To go back to work always felt like pushing an entire train onto another track with my bare hands. It was just so much effort. And so I kept writing and while I never seemed to make much money at it (and usually I made no money at it), it always seemed to mostly fulfill the longing I had within to pursue something that wasn’t related to the feeding, cleaning, and caring for the people and things that resided inside my house.
When we moved to Georgia, one of the first things that I remember is that we drove by a surprisingly large amount of Montessori schools, something I’ve spent nearly two decades subconsciously monitoring. Without realizing it, I was berating myself for tossing out my Montessori albums (several metric tons of lessons bound it the biggest binders known to man), a short-sighted response to moving so many damn times and the assumption that I’d never teach again.
When Ryan lost his job last month, something familiar and solid called to me from deep within. It’s time to go back. I knew it with the same certainty and confidence as I did when I was sitting in front of that Excel spreadsheet.
I immediately looked up how to become a substitute teacher in Fulton County and found that I had missed this school year’s deadline by less than two weeks. Seriously? But I took the substitute teacher training class anyway, vowed to sign up in June when it opened again, and sent out my resume to every private school nearby.
For most schools, I could simply shoot them my resume via email. Some required the filling out of an application. And some wanted it all old school: resume, cover letter, application, list of references, sometimes even my old, dusty transcripts, all folded up with a return address and a stamp.
I’ve been through enough difficult circumstances in my life to know that there are always bigger things at play. But I never could have predicted that there was a conversation happening around a table at a Montessori school eleven miles away. One at which they asked each another where they would ever find someone to help them with summer camp. Or if they’d find someone who would teach their PE program next year. Someone, they said, who might even understand Montessori kids. They said these things to each other while they were going through the day’s mail… and then they opened up my resume.
I went to talk to them this week when, after about twenty minutes of really lovely conversation, they told me this story. Feeling as serendipitous to them in the moment as it did to me in the retelling.
I go back next week to talk to the elementary teachers and discuss the possibility of developing and teaching their elementary PE program. I will definitely be part of their summer camp staff throughout June and July and am already bubbling with excitement.
Currently, I am simply marveling at the full circle moments that life can sometimes offer. That even though we made the decision to send our girls to public school (a decision that both broke my heart and filled it), even though all of my teaching supplies have long been recycled, and even though I haven’t been in a classroom since I was pregnant the first time around (that would be sixteen years ago), I’m getting the opportunity to try again.
I went for a run yesterday. The song Glorious by Macklemore floated into my ears, carrying me up a particularly steep hill. Sometimes I cry when I run (one of the many weird reasons I run alone)… because I hear words like this, at a time like this, on at day like this:
I feel glorious, glorious / Got a chance to start again / I was born for this, born for this / It’s who I am, how could I forget? / I made it through the darkest part of night / And now I see the sunrise / Now I feel glorious, glorious…
Here’s to full circle, glorious moments of truth and the chance to start again.