When I stopped working on my master’s degree a million years ago (okay, eight years ago…feels like the same thing when you factor in three kids), it was because I was in my first trimester with my first child and I was constantly ill. No joke; I couldn’t go more than two hours without throwing up. Between starting my first year of teaching, visiting the hospital for IVs, appointments with a nutritionist to find out what food “worked” for me, and trips to a high-risk OB to make sure baby girl was growing (while I was shrinking), I knew my graduate work would have to go on the back burner. I was halfway finished, but that meant halfway from finishing, and I gave up. I couldn’t be a teacher and go to school at the same time.
Fast forward to last summer. I decided to give my old advisor a shout out. “What would it take for me to finish?” I asked him. “You only need 15 hours,” he explained. “You could do that in a year.” Holy moly, a year?! Could I really find the time to do this, raise three young children, and be a teacher – all while feeling like total crap most of the time? I brought it up with my husband and, of course, he was extremely encouraging: “People do it all the time; you can do this!”
I decided he was right. It was now or never (literally, my hours “expired” in two years – all that work would go down the drain). I jumped in headfirst with excitement, but intense apprehension. You see, the thing about being a student and a teacher at the same time is this: it kind of stinks. No, it isn’t awful because of all the work, endless discussions, writing papers, articles and books to read, and lectures to listen to. I love all of it. Yes, I’m crazy, but I do! I love going to school. I love chatting with my peers and researching new ideas. I enjoy the advice I get from my professors and the opportunities to test out new techniques on my students. I even love the “alone” time my family is forced to give me so that I can work in “peace” – yes, “peace” in quotes.
What stinks about being a student and teacher at the same time boils down to a realization. I’ve realized, after many years of teaching and the past year of learning, that I wasn’t the great teacher I thought I was. I could have done so much better. I could have pushed my students harder, better recognized the knowledge they brought to the classroom, and untethered myself from the curriculum to provide the best learning experiences.
As teachers, we’re constantly learning and growing – that’s why we attend seminars and workshops throughout the summer and school year. But the learning I’ve acquired over the past 12 months has propelled me to be a better version of my “teacher-self,” and for that, I wouldn’t trade the last year of hard work and sleepless nights for all the Flair pens in the world.