A DECADE TO REMEMBER

A blurb from my latest IG post: “August ‘09 … I stepped into a school in North Minneapolis that would forever touch my heart & soul. It would make me who I am today. I was freshly 21 & determined to make an impact. I spent the next ten years doing some of the hardest work there is in this world. My time with MPS has been eye opening, rewarding & straight up challenging at times. I will never ever forget the students I was blessed to teach & the families I connected with. It’s been quite the journey filled with ups & downs but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I am a better person for my time spent as a teacher. I truly believe that. These kids thought they needed me, when in reality I needed them just as much, if not more. But all good things must come to an end, only to make room for NEW GOOD THINGS!

This August I will not be stepping back into the classroom. I am ready to push myself out of my comfort zone. Nothing is meant to be forever and I am able to smile and appreciate my time as a teacher. I have started a brand new adventure as an Executive Assistant to the CEO of a MN Credit Union. The decision to make this transition was definitely not taken lightly. Over the last few YEARS I have found myself feeling burnt out in the education world and longing for something different. Any teachers reading this can probably attest to the fact that teaching literally sucks the life out of you. I have tried switching grade levels, schools, areas of the district, and even roles, only to come to the same conclusion: teaching is not fulfilling me like it used to.

That is really hard for me to say out loud and come to terms with. I have wanted to be a teacher since I was about 3 years old. I went to college for this career. I clawed my way through my first three years to get tenured in MPS. I made a name for myself and survived 7 of my 10 years in the toughest area of the city/state, North Minneapolis. I poured my soul into kids who had no one else. I went above and beyond to be there for my students. I took them to get dinner. Bought them clothes and basic need necessities. Would send home food on Fridays to the ones who wouldn’t eat over the weekend. Gave them their only Christmas presents they would receive. Hauled them to football practices and games. Raised money to furnish new apartments after they got out of the shelter. Made home visits and sat on their couches so they would see me in their home and know my love for them was real and raw. Went door knocking in debris after a tornado ripped through North Minneapolis to make sure my students were alive. Had to explain to a kindergarten student why his mom hid drugs in his cubby that day because she knew the police were raiding the house that morning. Spent countless nights crying & worrying for some of them who had such shitty situations at such young ages. Called CPS and fought for their safety when no one else would advocate for them. Endured verbal and physical abuse several times, by students as well as parents. Picked up glass on my hands and knees early before my students got there one year when my classroom windows would get smashed out every weekend. Listened to horror stories from students about what they have seen in their short lives. Consoled a student who stood by a dead body at the bus stop that morning on her way to school. Had my own car damaged in the school parking lot. Had coworkers held at gunpoint while leaving school. Lied down on the pavement out at buses as a drive by shooting took place 50 feet in front of me. Had a convicted rapist corner me in my classroom on a record keeping day. Picked up used heroin needles in my kindergarten bathroom after a weekend the building had been unlocked. Had students confide some deep dark horrible secrets to me. I’ve seen the injustices of America’s education system up close & personal. Witnessed the blatant racism that still exists in our schools & communities day in and day out. I could literally go on and on people … but one thing has remained the same despite all of those insane tales … my love for the kids. An unconditional love. An unconditional love that went BOTH ways. I honestly would not be the person I am today without my interactions with these kids. I have crossed paths with hundreds of students the last 10 years. They will never know what they did for me. I cannot even begin to tell you how I relied on them when my own life was quite literally a fucking mess. One thing I will never forget is the generosity and kindness of their little souls. They would have nothing and would somehow find a way to give. That makes me cry to even type. They were so selfless. I will miss their funny sayings, little notes and pictures, kind compliments and seeing their resilience shine every day. That was inspiring enough to keep me going.

In addition to dealing with those stories above, which really were my typical week stories, I was being pushed by district officials and school administration to be better, to do more, to learn more, to somehow change the fate of my students, to get the test scores they wanted to see, etc. It is an impossible battle. Each summer I would teach summer school and try to recharge during my TWO WEEKS off. I tried to heal my wounds I had endured the previous school year and muster up the strength and courage to go back for another year. I also had to deal with my own life. It’s a juggling act that I really don’t think is feasible nor healthy. Teaching is downright HARD. It left me feeling drained emotionally, physically and mentally every single day. Anyone who thinks it’s “easy” or glamorous needs a reality check. My schools had lead in the pipes, no AC, no heat in my room for 3 years, mold in the ventilation system and constant rodent issues. Not ideal working or learning conditions by any means. I could go on another rant about the education system & it’s socioeconomic discrimination. We’ll save that for another day. 

These battles were things that they didn’t teach me in college. I had to navigate this new world on my own. I am proud of myself for sticking with it for so long. But there comes a point when teachers need to think about their own needs first. I knew that I was at a crossroads three years ago. I either needed to get the hell out of teaching or at least switch to a different area of the district. At the time, the right thing for me was to switch schools and areas of Minneapolis. I switched to a school in South Minneapolis. The last three years have simmered down tremendously from my days over North but I still felt that void, the hole in my soul. I wondered what else was out there and what else I could do.

It’s really scary to leave everything you know and take a leap of faith into something entirely new, but an opportunity arose and I had to try. I owed myself that much. I told myself that if it was meant to be it would work out and that it did! I have previous experience from while I was in college and even high school that I know will help me in my new role. I am excited and feel refreshed. I truly feel like this is my time to shine in something new.

A new decade filled with new healthy adventures.