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Mary Oves
Published: Monday, September 13, 2010
Mary Oves
Thinking about new challenges

I have been teaching for 22 years.

Twenty two years of lesson plans, faculty meetings, broken copiers and lunch duty. Two decades of 6 a.m. wake up times, frantically packed lunches and stale office coffee. Twenty two years of bored students, defunct technology, and insipid faculty room banter.

And oh my, I've loved every dang minute of it.

Besides writing, teaching is the only thing I have ever wanted to do. Early in my career I had to be reminded to pick up my paycheck, because I couldn't believe I was getting paid for doing something I loved so much. It's my love, my passion, my identity.

It's the students. They're what keep me going. Their humor, their sweetness, their cockiness, their vulnerability - every kid, every period, every day, every year, amazes me.

When I stand in front of my students, and I watch them write down what I say, or turn to a page I am referring to, I am honored and privileged to have a job that constantly affirms over and over that I am doing what I was born to do.

And I work in an amazing school where the teachers love to teach. They are excited every day, planning lessons that they know will hit a nerve, running off articles that they know will accentuate a point, discussing confidentially how to reach difficult kids. They truly care.

But lately, in some very small ways, I have been entertaining notions of maybe perhaps doing something else. The idea creeps into my head and just as quickly scampers out, and leaves me with the notion that maybe there CAN be life after teaching.

Sometimes at 5 a.m., when I am walking my dog, envisioning my days' lessons, I think how nice it would be to not have to rush around. How it would be nice to have a slow quiet cup of coffee. How it would be luxurious to read the headlines, and know what is going on in the world. How it would be nice to make my sons breakfast, ask them about their homework for the day, and watch them get on the bus. Pick them up when they're sick, take them in "late" when they have finishing touches to put on a project.

Teaching is a great gig for moms. We're in school while our kids are in school; we're on vacation when they're on vacation. I've never had the desire to be a stay at home mom - I've always worked, and have always wanted to continue working. But after twenty two years, the pull to be here, where my sons are, is strong.

I find it ironic. Many of my friends, who for these many years have been stay-at-home moms, are ready to get back into the workforce. They're buying grown-up clothes, going on interviews, getting their resumes fine-tuned. And here I am, ready to pack it in.

I don't intend to rock in a rocking chair. Way too much energy for that. I teach college courses, so I can pick up some more of those. I've always dreamed of owning my own bookstore, if there's some crazy bank willing to take a chance on me. Help with the family business, private tutoring, get my doctorate, things just keep running through my mind.

But I don't want to be one of those teachers who show up a year after they retire, bored out of their minds because they realize that they weren't ready to go after all. When I go, that will be it. No subbing or hanging around - when I'm done, I'll be done. So I want to make sure that I have done everything in teaching that I set out to do.

Teaching is the only profession where people retire and then come back. Because when you're a teacher, you feed off the energy of teaching so much that when you're deprived of that energy, you can't get it from any other source. No matter how many times you walk the boardwalk, no matter how many classes you take, no matter how many coffee klatches you join, if you're used to standing in front of a classroom, nothing else can replace it.

But I'm considering it. I'm not getting the rush that I used to get. I still love it, but there's something missing. Sometimes I even feel resentful when I'm there. But in the same breath, teaching is a large part of my identity - I've been Mrs. Oves for so long. When I cease to be Mrs. Oves, who will I be?

A question best asked at a later time. Sunday night, gotta do my lesson plans.

 



 

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