I officially was employed by my county nineteen years ago. Technically, with student teaching as part of my “teaching experience,” I had already been teaching for three years. My years working as a graduate teaching assistant didn’t count given that the amount of time I spent in the classroom wouldn’t match a year’s teaching in a public school classroom.
When I left my first public school teaching job, I cashed in my one year’s worth of retirement. I needed the money and feel no regret. I lost a year towards retirement. When looking at thirty years worth of teaching, one year didn’t seem like much of a loss.
In some respects, I still don’t feel like I lost much of anything.
I settled into my career. I taught seventh graders, loved my work. Then I became pregnant and started having complications. The twenty-seven minute commute suddenly seemed huge when considering that I was going to be separated from my son who was determined to be born early. Or my body was determined to evict him early.
I applied for a transfer, botched one interview, successfully completed the second interview. Or, God gave me an amazing interview that landed me the perfect job at the perfect school for me.
Flashforward roughly six years of teaching and working first with ninth and tenth graders. And then being moved to working exclusively with seniors. I had a dream job (note, I have a dreamier job now).
I learned about National Board Certification and decided to pursue it. I was told in meeting after meeting that I shouldn’t do this for the money. But when I was promised a lovely stipend for ten years, why in the world wouldn’t I pursue this?
I spent hours working on my four portfolios. I spent hours with video taped lessons that I had to trash because of technical difficulties. I took a test that I spent the day before preparing for because I had to write about working with English language learners which was a group I had never really worked with nor had I ever really been trained or taught to work with that group. But I bought a book and read as much of it as I could and talked with people who specifically worked with ESL learners.
I “achieved” my first year (“achieved” being the word for passed and earned my certificate). Usually, the process takes three years. I was blessed with a fantastic editor who spent four hours a week editing my documents, and this lasted for at least two months.
My national board certification expires this year. I chose to renew and am happy to have done so. This morning, I finished writing the portfolios, will edit them in the next couple of days, and will submit them by Friday.
I will send out my certification for the state this week as well.
In five years, my state certification will be up for renewal and I will repeat the process.
In ten years, my national board certification will expire, and I will not renew. I will be two years from retiring and, at this point, I don’t know that I will continue to stay in the teaching field.
I love my job. I love what I do. But the hours of grading, the hours expected of me to drop my life to the side and read papers and comment on the papers are exhausting.
Therefore, I will renew my state certification until I am ready to retire. And then I will let it lapse. I will walk away from one career and possibly pursue another.
In eleven years, I will be eligible for retirement. I will be 56 at the time. I am not ready to think of myself moving into retirement, but I ready to think about change. About different horizons that stretch out their palms and beckon.
I think I will chase those long lines waiting for me. For now, I am where I am meant to be and I am content.
You have done fine things, great things, as a teacher. So great that I patterned my life on you, and have not forgotten what I learned. Here in my sixth year I am approaching my national boards tentatively as somehow a less worthy goal than my poetry or my daughter, but worthy enough to pursue. It’s not the hardest thing, though. Teaching is hard. Loving the most difficult young people, those who are defiant, those who scream and wring their hands, those that hurt themselves and others, that’s hard. You did the hard thing for me. I thought of you today as any abandoned mentee might, and I was still grateful.
Oh Anna. I can still see you in my classroom sitting next to Alex whom I called “Imp” at the time. I remember your poetry, your depth of soul that came out in your poetry. I remember our conversations, especially one when you were quiet and vulnerable. I am so honored by your words. Thank you Beloved Anna. Thank you so much.