Martyr to the Cause

The news is out – I took a job at a new school for next year.

Many of you patiently bore my decision-making process and the necessary spreadsheets (yes, plural).  The job application itself was rather happenstance.  Rachel called me up a few months ago to see if I wanted to join her and some friends for dinner since Ben got a migraine.  We met up downtown and enjoyed a pleasant dinner with Shawn, a friend of Ben’s from college, and Shawn’s fiancee Becca.  I’ve met Becca more than once at group movies at the Alamo, but wouldn’t quite call her a friend.  I knew she was also a teacher who did shows, but wasn’t clear on the details.

Over dinner, I got a clearer picture – Becca’s a choir teacher at a middle school who started directing musicals there a few years ago.  She was excited since the musicals have been successful enough that they’re creating a full-time theater teacher gig for next year.  And, hey!  How do you like your current job, Amanda?  Want to apply?

Rachel was eager for me to do so.  I was less so.  Middle school?  JeffCo (the big, politically-sticky district I live in)?  Eh.

But I was thinking about applying for another position in the same district anyway (my friend Lisa’s school was also looking for a theater teacher), so what the hey?  It’s only a few more clicks of a button to apply for that one.

And then they called me for an interview less than 24 hours later.  Then they called me just a few hours after the interview and offered me the job.  Then they put up with me taking a week and a half to figure out salary questions and to interview at Lisa’s school and to PANIC ALL THE TIME ALWAYS BECAUSE WHAT THE CRAP, WHY AM I GETTING JOB OFFERS THE WEEK OF THE MUSICAL?!!?!?!?!?!?!!!

Three cold sores in one week + the nurse at my school commenting on my unusually high blood pressure during district biometrics.  “Is there anything in your life that might be causing extra stress?” she asked.


The thing it, the middle school kinda nailed the interview.  I mean, I did too – they told me so, multiple times.  But if I had written out exactly what an administration should say to get me on their side, that’s pretty much exactly how they answered every question I had for them.

My current school has a lot of really great things about it, not the least of which is my being fully established with a good, strong reputation in a tiny, judgy community and super-supportive principals.

But the middle school job would knock 1 hour off of my daily commute, does the plays as classes so there’s minimal after-school rehearsals, and no speech.

There are a lot of pros and a lot of cons for both schools.  Hence the spreadsheets.

Ultimately, when I imagine scrupulously tracking the weather week after week to see if I’m going to have to do a three-hour bus ride in the mountains each way to a 12-hour speech meet on my Saturday for four months in a row… I just couldn’t face doing that for the rest of my career.  Heck, I didn’t want to face doing that again next year.

And so I took the new job and broke the news to my principal.  He said he wants me to stay, of course, “but ultimately [he] want[s] me to do what will make me happy and healthy.”  I said that’s exactly why this was such a hard choice.  Then I started to cry, much to my mortification.  It was a rough week.

Then I broke the news to my drama kids.  Two of them started to cry.  It was a really rough week.

I explained what I could without taking up too much time.  I told them about going there to start a new drama department for them.  “Well, how can we be upset when you’re going for reasons like that?” Emily said through the tears.

And, yeah.  I didn’t see it that way, especially since I could just as easily give up the job that’s closer to home and that will ultimately pay more to teach these rural mountain kids in the tiny school in the tiny district with little money or resources.  But, sure, if it helps them to see my choice as one that betters the Children of the Future, then I’ll take that spin.

As the word’s spread through the district, I have to keep repeating the same conversation about the choice to leave.  People are kind about it, of course they are, and I always emphasize honestly that it was a really hard decision.  But it always feels a bit like abandoning ship.  I’m giving up, walking away, going over to the dark side.

I’m sure I’m projecting a lot of that guilt.  While deliberating, I realized something – if I’m offered a choice between A and B and all I know is that A is easier than B, not only do I feel like I’m supposed to pick B, but there’s a strong sense that I’m actively doing something wrong by picking A.  I’m supposed to pick the harder choice.

I’m sure there’s plenty in that I should unpack with a therapist at some point (or, more realistically, that I will unpack with various friends over various conversations over meals in various restaurants).

I picked the easier choice.  I picked the job that will let me do what I’m already doing in a much more livable way.  I decided that I don’t have to make my entire life about my work, that just because I’m single doesn’t mean I should make my career my life.  I decided to try to be okay with wanting to work normal hours and to scale back the hours to more reasonably reflect the pay and to give myself the space to figure out what else I can do besides teach.  I made the choice that’s healthier for me, physically and especially mentally.  I picked the choice that’s going to make my life easier.

And that was a really hard choice to make.


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