This year I made the decision to move from the school I have been at for 8 years and move to a new state with my family to start anew. I know this is common story and teachers have to relocate for many reasons like pay, family, and spouse job relocations. There are many that are more fluid and okay with starting over and changing locations. I am not one of those people. I tend to dig in plant roots and desperately don't want to move on. I think in some ways I saw it as giving up. I know this isn't really true but I had invested so much in my school that I had a hard time seeing it was time to move on until I was forced to see it.
I left my first teaching position to move in with my now husband. He lived in a different part of our state and had a good job, so it made sense. It was my first teaching job and while I loved it there I wasn't super invested yet. Once I moved my husband and I started building our life and I got a job at the local high school. It was a hard school. The students had difficult lives and there was/is a cultural feeling in the town that the school was both a friend and an enemy. Many students/families did not value education and had no desire to see beyond their town. I thrived at this school despite those hardships and found a teaching family. I found people that encouraged me and helped me grow as a person and a teacher. Along with that my husband and I started our family and had our 2 kids and many of my students watched my kids grow up. I became a leader in our school with technology and was a driving force in creating our advisory program. I really thought I would retire from this school district.
The past three years signaled a change that led to my decision to leave this district that was part of my home. Things were getting harder with the students and over those three years I lost 5 students to suicide. There was so much trauma and not enough support in the school and the community. There were upper administration issues and a loss of support jobs within the school that were needed. My responsibilities were piling up and while I knew that I was appreciated, it didn't lighten my load any. Basically I was on my way to an emotional break down. I had invested so much into the school and wasn't getting the support I needed. My teaching was suffering, my school relationships were suffering, my relationship with my family were suffering, and my body was suffering.
I still fought the realization that something needed to change. I thought I could fix it in the classroom and at home. I fought it for a year and half. Finally I had a moment of clarity. One was brought to me by my physical trainer who told me that my health issues were all emotional and that I was just emotionally overwhelmed. The minute she said it, I basically cried. She was right! I was bringing home so much of my students' trauma that it was becoming mine. It was hindering everything in my life. The problem was I didn't know what to do about it. I still wasn't sure that I wanted to leave.
The decision to leave was really came down to my husband also looking for a change of scenery and the fact that I couldn't figure out a way to break away from my responsibilities. I tried removing some of them and that helped but the biggest one was one that I honestly would not be able to shake unless I left. My husband basically convinced me that we needed a fresh start. I agreed but it still took me a year to really accept it was my last year this school.
After I made the decision I felt guilty. I felt like I was giving up on my students and my school. My school family was sad but said they understood. That made it hard as well. We moved at the end of last school year and have settled in our new area. I realized over this summer how much truth there was to my emotional trouble. I finally relaxed this summer. I felt all my stress and anxiety disappear. To be fair I still feel anxious about my new teaching position and I want to make it amazing, but the serious stress and anxiety that I was used to feeling starting in early July wasn't there this summer. Things have been better with my family and kids which is amazing for me.
The truth is I still feel guilt at leaving. It is hard to care about something so much and then make a decision to walk away. I also can't deny how relieved I feel to not go back to my old school and the responsibilities and trauma. This was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but one that I think will lead me to living a better life. I miss my former students and my friends at the school that I would see everyday. Could I have stayed and found a different way to handle my emotional stability? Maybe, but the opportunity presented itself and I took it. I have realized though that my emotional stability is more important and that to be a teacher that will make difference I have to take my emotional stability more seriously.
I know this is not your typical post, but I wanted to tell you my story so if anyone else out there is or was struggling like I was, know that you are not alone. Don't let it get so bad that you become bitter and hate what you used to love. If you need to leave, it is O.K. If you need help that is O.K. Please just take care of yourself. Take time to make sure you are O.K. so you can be there for the students that need you. I lost that for awhile, but I am back and looking forward to making a difference again.