Monday, April 26, 2010

When quitting is the right choice

I'm a follow-through person. I don't fear commitment and when I say I'll do something, I do. When I make an alliance with someone or an agency, they've got me. I have worked for years for people I didn't actually like - all because I felt some weird alliance. I will admit there's a fair amount of avoidance of conflict playing out here, too, just to put it all out. I hate saying to someone - I just don't want to work for you anymore.

But that's what I just did. I just tendered my resignation at a school where I have been teaching off and on for the past 6 years. This last year has been so much drama, so many incidents where I did not feel respected. And yet, when principal came to me last month and asked me if I was willing (his word, not mine!) to return for another year - of course I agreed. I even had another offer, closer to my house, better salary, more creative license and support - but no, I turned that down because of this loyalty.

So why quit? And why write about it (albeit anonymously, so as to be respectful of all)?

I quit because I got to the point where I was dreading it. Not the class itself - that I still actually enjoy - but dealing with the administration. Dreading talking to the principal, who I actually like personally, because of the way he runs his school. Feeling disrespected - knowing they have the best of intentions, which sometimes makes it worse!

And I'm writing on it because I can identify two major lessons that I want to take out if this experience, and I welcome your thoughts as well.

First, the reduction in mental and emotional stress that comes from removing yourself from a toxic environment or relationship is always worth the stress and pain of getting there. I've experienced this in ending toxic friendships, too - but I had forgotten it. It's easy to think that our work and "real life" are separate, that stresses from work won't affect our time with our kids, our physical health, etc - especially when it's not a major incident, it's not abusive, or anything like that. But we are unified beings and we don't disconnect as easily as we'd like to.

Second, I realized that, as educators in general but especially as Jewish educators, when it's not fun anymore, it's time to try something different. This isn't to say you need to love every second, but I don't think you can be an effective Jewish identity builder and strenghtener if you aren't enjoying your end of the relationship. I heard myself say (to... myself) "it's work. It doesn't have to be fun." - and then I stopped myself. Can you be an effective teacher of anything if you don't enjoy teaching?

I haven't yet seen the principal in person (this all occurred over email, see earlier line about avoiding conflict - although I do think there are certain things that are better said via email, allowing each side to present as they wish, not how their emotions rule! And in this instance there were time constraints, too.) but I will shortly. I must admit some anxiety about that meeting, but it is strongly overridden by my complete confidence that this was the right decision.

(and no, I don't know yet if I'm going to teach somewhere else next year. I might just need a break!)

1 comment:

  1. This is useful advice for all readers. Same can be said of learners (students and parents) feeling trapped in a school which is filled with problems. Important to remember that one need not feel trapped--one can always "move on!"