After the response I received on Facebook with respects to a status about returning to the classroom to teach for my 10th year [wow when did I get old?!], I decided to elaborate upon it here on my blog.
Two years ago, I walked away from teaching. My fitness career was taking off. I was being offered more classes than I could keep up with and I was just DONE with education.
I was over it all. Over waking up early, grading papers, the self-righteous, the hypocrites, parental atrocities, LAUSD, unrelenting, unfair, and unrealistic legislation, and finally, the disenfranchised youth. When I left the classroom, I couldn’t get out fast enough. I was checked out. I was burned out, beaten down, and I felt as if I had nothing more to give.
I spent my summer post education hustling to line up as many jobs, classes, and opportunities as possible. Finally, in what seemed like the break of a lifetime, I was approached and hired as the Lead Instructor and General Manager of a brand new cycling studio by a young woman who read my [old] blog. I thought to myself I hit the big time with this gig: salary, eventually paid vacation and sick time and indoor cycling all day, everyday.
I was elated that I was now going to have more autonomy over my life and schedule. I could finally teach classes during the day, sleep later, train all day, stay up later, and really live fitness.
As summer ended and the new school year rolled around, I read my friends posts about their first days. An overwhelming sense of “HAHAHA SUCKEERRSSSSS” came over me. I refused to ‘like’ their statuses because now I was no longer a teacher: I got out. I took a stand. I stuck it to those kids, the school, and the district.
Ugh. Sometimes I am angry at myself for the things I think. Really, what about a little grace and humility?
It didn’t take long for me to dislike working at the cycling studio. Everything about it just wasn’t me. Sure, I have the capacity to manage but is it really me? I was ALWAYS on call: morning, noon, and night. If my boss called, I answered. If she emailed, I replied. I was working tirelessly to build someone else’s business with my unique and innovative ideas while laboring over manuals, scheduling, learning new computer programs, and hiring instructors. I spent my days in stretchy pants as yet another faceless LA cliché writing on a laptop in a Starbucks.
Eventually, as the opening of the cycling studio neared I had to sub out more and more yoga classes. Finally, I was asked to give up my classes at One Down Dog so that I could be more available for the cycling studio. Well, if you know anything about me, you know that One Down Dog is not just some place where I teach yoga. As one of the original instructors who helped open the place, it is my home. One Down Dog is a sanctuary, my family, and happy place. As time unfolded, it seemed that what I wanted this job to be and what it ended up becoming were grossly misaligned to my needs, desires, and heart’s passions. Yet, in the midst of this all, I repeatedly told myself that this is the work I wanted to do, in the industry I wanted to work in, so I kept at it.
I was miserable but I refused to admit that to myself because in my eyes, accepting that I wasn’t happy meant that I had failed at something I had set out to do.
As many of you will agree, in most cases, the grass really isn’t greener. It’s a funny thing how we want what we want, even if we don’t know what it is what we want [that's a mouth full, read it again slowly and think about it]. Everything I thought I once wanted, when I finally got it still seemed as if something was missing. And for one thing, I sure as hell wasn’t any happier than when I was in the classroom.
I learned so much about myself while I was away from the classroom. First, I learned I missed the structure of the day and school year. Yea, that structure I so desperately tried to rebel against? Yup. Turns out I need it and I like it. I missed seeing my students smile when I came to support them at sporting events, musical performances, or took an interest in their personal lives. And to be completely honest, I missed the certainty of my paycheck.
With all these things swirling around in my mind and life in February while out to dinner, Greg suggested I look into teaching again because ‘it’s my life’s work’. I threw a fit, stormed out of the restaurant before our food even arrived and I tried to break up with him. I know, immature. But what you need to understand is I was so paralyzed by my denial and inability to accept that I may have made the wrong choice that I lacked clarity. Besides, I gloated and boastfully poked fun at my friends still teaching about parent conferences, back to school nights, and LAUSD drama. How could I go back to the classroom and not look like a failure?
And then, I just did it. I went out, looked for a job and got one. I mean who am I living this life for anyway? I needed to just get back out there, do me, and not worry or care what the world would think of me going back to the classroom. As fate would have it, I applied to Helen Bernstein High School on a Wednesday afternoon, interviewed Thursday morning and was hired on the spot. I started work the following Monday.
And just like that, I was thrown back into teaching. Head first, I jumped into high school and soaked up the material, the kids, and the culture. From the instant I walked onto campus I felt like I belonged. There is a very real and palpable energy in a school that doesn’t exist anywhere else on the planet. I cannot even put my finger on what it is, but there is something magical about a school campus and in a classroom. Maybe it’s all that possibility of what’s ahead. But those walls, those halls, and those buildings speak to me like nothing I have experienced in my life. I kid you not, when I talk about how I feel about my work and my students, many times I tear up from the emotions surging through my body.
With great risk comes great return.
I firmly believe you MUST take a chance on yourself and life when it calls to you. I do not regret leaving the classroom for a second. Taking time off allowed me to find a renewed sense of passion and faith in the process and my work. And what’s more, leaving the classroom allowed me to get a little closer to myself. I stopped running, hiding, and denying who I really am. After one of my cycling classes, a friend of mine who is a respected yoga instructor said to me:
“In class, you always tell us to stop running from ourselves and to be courageous in confronting our most essential self. So, why are you so afraid? Why are you running away from teaching? Why are you refusing to be your most essential self?”
Needless to say, that conversation took place after my last class at the cycling studio. It was all I needed to give me the confidence to head back with zero doubts. With the support of friends, family, and a loving man by my side I started a teaching assignment in late February 2014. And if you ask me, aside from saying YES to marry Greg, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.
I have found myself again.
I have found a home at Helen Bernstein High School.
And I couldn’t be happier.
Oh, if you’re wondering what I think of myself: Do I think I failed in the fitness industry? Do I feel like I couldn’t hack it? Pffffffff, heeelllllllllll no. I went back to the classroom because I wanted to leave a legacy behind in this world. I wanted to leave this planet a better place than when I came into this world. I wanted to dare myself everyday to leave an indelible mark on this Earth. And I do. I do it all. I teach kids. I teach adults. I make playlists and I grade papers. I still wear stretchy pants to work though I think my principal would prefer I don’t. Whether in fitness or in my classroom, we cry, we laugh, we smile, but above all–we connect.
For those of you who missed it, below is the post from my Facebook on August 11, 2014 that inspired this blog entry:
It is the eve before my 10th first day of school as an educator. One year ago, I was not returning to the classroom as I pursued my passions in fitness in yoga and cycling.
As life would have it, at a little more than half way through last school year; I landed back in a classroom at a high school in Hollywood.
For years, I have grappled with being an educator. Despite awards, great successes, and my ability to inspire urban youth to achieve, I ran away from my essential self. Like a coward, I fled and cultivated other strengths and interests–anything to not be a teacher. I spent years ashamed of being an educator, hiding and running from who I really was at my core. When asked what I did for a living my response always was, “I am a fitness instructor.” However, that all changed when I landed at Helen Bernstein High School.
After 8 years in a middle school setting, I now know that I am a high school teacher.
I AM AN ENGLISH TEACHER.
I am an English teacher and I am damn proud of the work I do but most of all, I am honored to serve the most incredible youth in this city.
It took leaving education, a new principal taking a chance on this mysterious girl with purple hair who materialized mid-school year for me to find myself again.
I am an English teacher.
Yes, I love teaching fitness and that is a huge part of my life and who I am. But strip me down and my heart beats for those kids whose lives will be forever altered by being students in my class. There is nothing more valuable in this world than being THAT person to help a young person be the first individual in his/her family to graduate high school or go to college. For many of my students, my classroom is a haven for them to feel safe, nurtured, and pushed beyond what they ever imagined was possible. Together, my students and I are strong and together we can accomplish anything.
I am an English teacher.
I am an English teacher.
I am an English teacher and tomorrow is my first day of school and I can’t wait.