Where will you be in 5 years?

HaRdEsT qUeStIoN eVeR!

It’s that time of year again.  The “Intent Form” time of year; that form you have to fill out from your school principal detailing what your intentions are for the next school year (does he get to/have to keep you or are you hoping to venture out on a new adventure?).  I was doing real well with my responses until that question happened; Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

…?

…..?

I can’t remember a time when I saw myself in one year let alone 5. Even when it came to teaching, I was NOT going to do THAT!  My mother and father were both teachers.  My mother’s 6 sisters were teachers and all but 1 married a teacher.  All of my cousins who were older than me were teachers or in school pursuing a teaching degree.  But that wasn’t my dream.  I was going to be an interior designer (or a pilot…or a rock star).  But my designing dreams were no match the genetic mutation in my DNA called teaching.

But there is that 5 year vision again. There isn’t a job I have ever had that didn’t fall into one of the following categories:

1. I never considered this job.
2. I didn’t go looking for this job.
3. I didn’t compete for this job.
4. Why think about it? Just go for it.

My first job was in high school as a freshman. No, that isn’t the job I am talking about although it was the only job my folks expected of me; full time student. But a neighbor friend of mine worked at a day care center in town and they were short an after school teacher one evening.  She called to ask if I would come that evening so they were in compliance with teacher to child ratios. I agreed and kept the job for 7 years! It was the job I had when I left school early every day during my high school senior year for the work study program.  It was the job I started college with until I *gulp* had to quit to…student teach! That day care changed my life, apparently.  I am still working with kids!

Then there was the summer job during college. I was the kid who never spent the night at anyone’s house growing up. I liked MY house. I even lived at home throughout college. That’s why I still don’t know what came over me when I answered an add in the newspaper (the real paper kind), drove 90 minutes to an interview and returned home as a summer camp counselor at a resident YMCA camp; Camp Weona: Where only good Prevails! Yep!  I had to LIVE there all summer (but my mom promised to write to me eveyr day..and she did…and I still have all those letters). It ended up being the best job I ever had until now; one of those times in your life that leaves you with those happy feelings you try to recreate in your adulthood but never can.  I even returned for a second year before getting married and agreed to be the Arts and Crafts specialist.  I also added weekends for winter programs!

College graduation happened after that and rather than pursue a teaching career, I decided to sub for the first year (picking and choosing when and where I wanted to work…or not). I also worked as a banquet waitress at a friend’s family banquet hall on weekends; so much fun! (Another job they were short a person for and needed a warm body…I spent many many weekends there after that nerve racking crash course).

My first year in NC was next in the timeline of my life. Teaching jobs in NY were scarce at best; teachers were not retiring there, holding our for better retirement packages and clogging the market for new graduates. So, knowing NO one in NC, my husband of one week and I moved to NC where I picked up 2 long term maternity sub positions right away.  That first summer, I needed an income so I walked into a random day care (something familiar) where they recognized the value in hiring a real certified teacher for a pre-school teacher. In less than a year I was asked to open their 3rd daycare center as the pre-school director.  It wasn’t on my radar when I was asked to do so but I gave it about 3 minutes thought, and figured, “Why not”. So I was a pre-school administrator for two years.  That just drove one of my after school teachers bonkers. She worked full time by day as the SIMS person for Wake County Schools and came in after her day was done to work a few more hours with us. She couldn’t stand that I was “wasting” my degree as a pre-school administrator even though it was great with me!  She arranged for the principal of Lincoln Heights at the time to interview me for a teaching position.  Honestly, I was not real interested but knew better than to burn a bridge. So I went for the interview. THAT was an awkward interview!  I kid you not…

Principal: Have you ever….?
Me: No
Principal: Do you have experience with….”
Me: No
Principal: What do you know about the NC curriculum?
Me: Nothing.

Thank goodness Linda Starkweather, the IRT at the time, (having seen my work background on my resume) told the principal she knew I had “grit”.  How else could I have been so successful in working my way up in long term positions that I took on a whim without giving any of them much (or any) thought….and been happy and successful in each one!? So, three days into the first teacher work days of the new school year I got the call to be a 4th grade teacher, my understanding bosses gave the OK to go, and in a matter of a day I was a teacher!

No one in teaching needs to have it detailed how consuming that job was.  For years I had put it out there to my administrator that I was interested in a job, ANY job, that was not a homeroom teacher. But turnover on the grade level was high and I was the constant. So taking me out of that position was not favorable. I was stuck until I took it upon  myself to job share the 4th grade position with a friend of mine. I was perfectly willing to work full time, just not as a homeroom teacher. So we planned all summer, made our part time schedules, wrote letters to our future student’s families…and the call came. My principal said the science specialist position came open and it was mine. I did that job for 7 years at that school until the position had to be cut due to classroom numbers. They needed a homeroom teacher before a science teacher. Being unwilling to teach a homeroom again, I left that school after 11 years there and was taken on as a science specialist at a different school (by the same principal who hired me as the science specialist at my last school! Also the same principal who asked me if I would consider being an ITF which required going back to school).

I do not have a master’s degree nor am I nationally board certified.  Back in NY, I completed a 5 year program in 4 years and never wanted to go back to being a student another day in my life. Yet, within a week of that ITF question, I was enrolling at ECU as a student to become an Instructional Technology Facilitator. However, before she could hire me for that position, she got moved to a different school. Thank goodness my new principal gave me that shot and took me on as the ITF just 2 months ago. I could not be happier. I am just as happy now as I was as that resident camp counselor at Camp Weona!

So now we have come full circle to that time of year when I have to answer that “5 years from now” question. Just so I could submit the form, I typed a few sentences after much thought.  But if I am to be honest, the response wasn’t exactly what is in my heart. I pretty much just made something up that resembled what I am doing now only because I like what I am doing and I needed to submit it. But reflecting on it now, a week later in my first ever blog attempt, I think I know what I need to go back in and change my response to.

In 5 years from now, I want to be as surprised as ever in where I will be because so far, my gut and my soul have never once steered me wrong. My grit has never failed me, Year after year gets better and better and not once have I ever seen it coming. For me, I believe that is the way it is supposed to be.  If others can see potential in me, I am intrigued although I do know my limits.  I may not always know what I am doing. But if I have agreed to try, I have agreed to find joy in it and will fight like crazy to be the best I can be…until I am blindsided for the next challenge.

So how about YOU….where do YOU hope to be in 5 years? And how do you know? REALLY….how the heck do you know?