Many of you may know that the job I've had for the past three years hasn't exactly been a dream, and I've been trying to get out of it for quite some time. When I first started looking for new jobs, I wasn't looking for anything particularly spectacular. Most of what I looked at were jobs very similar to what I have now, admin type things. To make a long story short, I submitted application after application, went on interview after interview, and wrote more cover letters than I care to admit - and still, nothing. Finally, after one last "thanks but no thanks" after an interview early last fall, it was like the light bulb finally went on. I suddenly realized that the jobs I was applying for meant absolutely nothing to me. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew that I at least had to pick a solid direction to move in. Choosing a career path doesn't have forever vows like marriage or religious life - you can always change your mind later. I just needed something that I had an interest in NOW, and the first thing that came to mind was teaching.
Following the advice of a friend I decided to take a month off from official job hunting. After basically making it a second job for almost a year, it was hard to just STOP job hunting, but I knew it was the right move. Instead I used that time to think about what I wanted to do, particularly to investigate what it meant to be a teacher. I reached out to every teacher I knew, asking to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more I listened to what they had to say, the more I wanted to do it. And, interestingly enough, the more people I told that I was thinking about teaching, the more I heard things like, "Oh that's so great! I think you'll make a great teacher!" It wasn't just polite encouragement either - I could tell these people really meant it, especially since many of them were very close people in my life. I didn't know how the path was going to play out or that I would even find a way to become a teacher, but I knew what I was working towards.
A few weeks later I got an email about a grad school fair happening in DC. I kept it in the back of my mind, but wasn't sure I really wanted to go. If I remember correctly, I didn't actually make the decision until that very day. It was definitely one of those Ugh I don't WANT to go, but FINE, I will. At the very least I knew that I was looking for education programs, so that was helpful. This fair was HUGE. I spent over two hours there and only got to half of the schools. I found a lot of British schools that made me go Oh yay! A chance to travel again! (And FYI for everyone out there - I may not have chosen that route, but if you're interested, it's a LOT cheaper to get a master's overseas than here. Something to look into if you're interested in international study/travel). But as exciting as that was I continued to snake through the rows to other American schools as well, being interested in, but not blown away by, my other options. By the end of my time there my feet were killing me, my bag was breaking my back, and I was ready to go home. I decided to make one last quick pass down the final row - and that's when I found Urban Teacher Center (UTC). It was the very last table in the very last row. I heard the representative talking to another interested person and literally stopped as I was walking by and turned back. The last table on the last row. After more than two hours.
This might be a good point for me to pause and explain what UTC actually is - it's referred to as a teacher residency program. The best comparison I can use to introduce it is to say that it's got a similar concept to Teach for America, but it's also very different. UTC is a four-year program instead of a two-year program, and you don't dive right into teaching your own classroom. You spend your first "residency" year working with a host teacher and taking grad school classes, and then the last three years you have your own classroom. The first year is unpaid, but the program gives you a free dual Master's in general and special education from Lesley University as well as certifications and incredible coaching, support, and preparation. It's a fairly new program (started back in 2010) and currently only has cohorts in DC and Baltimore, but it's already showing amazing results of producing excellent teachers.
It took me a little while to decide to apply (I don't even know why, could have something to do with my constant indecisiveness), but when I finally did the rest was history. And it was fast! I applied, and within a few days got an invitation to do a virtual interview (very weird - you record answers to questions on your webcam instead of interviewing with a person directly, but it helps replace phone interviews). About a week after that I had an invitation for the final in-person interview that would be taking place a month later. I had a great interview day, and within a few days found out I got accepted. WHAT???!!! Is this for real??? I was so excited, but also nervous. Everything felt right, everything had fallen into place, but I still wanted to be sure this was the right move. Then I started flipping through all the documents that had been sent to us, and came across the "Letter to a UTC Resident." It was like the last paragraph was written just for me:
"The next year will not be pretty—I assure you. I often wondered to myself “Are these people serious?” But the work that is ahead of you is a marathon race of utmost importance. No one smacks their feet to the road and sets out to run 26-plus miles without rigorous training. Your training begins now."
Those of you that know me know that running is a big part of my life and that I've trained for and run a marathon. Those of you that really know me know that running is also a very big metaphor for me in many parts of my life and faith. So when I read this quote, I literally just looked up to heaven and thanked God for showing me the sign I needed to see - His version of a thumbs up to go for it!
A few days after I found out I was accepted to the program I came home to this wonderful surprise from my amazing roommate Maura:
We even had a little cake-cutting ceremony with my tiny sword letter-opener to help her "practice" for an actual cake-cutting ceremony that she had to plan. We then proceeded to sit at the kitchen table, shoveling down cake and talking and giggling about who knows what. Roommate bonding time at it's finest.
Not only did I feel so incredibly loved by Maura's gesture, but it was also a very strong reminder - a reminder that I have the best family and friends a girl could ask for, and a reminder that I'm so incredibly lucky that I have them nearby as I begin this new career path. I'm so excited to be starting this new path with UTC, but it will by no means be easy. The first year in particular will be incredibly difficult, since I'll be in the schools all day, then going to my own classes in the evenings, then homework and lesson planning and somehow still having some semblance of a life. Oh yeah, and did I mention the first year is unpaid? It's going to be tough. But then I remember that I have such an incredible support group, and a support group that's close by. For a long time I talked about possibly moving to a new city, and someday I would still like to try it. But considering the fact that the best teaching option I found was local, I think that's another sign from God that I'm meant to stay here from now. He knows how easily I can get stressed, and He knows that I'm the kind of person that will really need and appreciate having my friends and family close by.
So, this new journey will be a challenge. In the last couple years I've gotten very comfortable with my 9-5 job and having my free time for myself and planning all kinds of social events. But I'm not going to be quite so flexible anymore - let's face it, it's probably going to be a bit nuts. I apologize and ask you all to forgive me in advance if I have a hard time fitting everyone in, if I feel too busy or tired (or poor) to do things. But know, too, that I'm going to try my best and that I love you all and am so happy to have you in my life. I'm not much of an "asking for prayers" kind of person, but if you could please keep me in your prayers as I start this new chapter, I would really appreciate it - I could use all the help I can get! In the meantime, I officially have less than one month left at my current job, then I'm taking two weeks off before the fun begins on June 23rd.
This is just a name tag from a recent event that I attended, but it makes me feel so official!