A couple of summers ago, I returned home from a relatively successful job interview in a public school district. The interview was in August and was in the middle of the third month of what would become an excruciatingly painful and emotionally and physically draining Crohn’s flare-up. In August, though, I thought there was still a shot that I’d take control of this thing and be in decent enough shape to trudge through the fall semester at a new school.
From what I could tell, the job was mine to have. It was August, after all, just days away from students’ arrival. Laura and I weighed the pros and cons. Winner: The Con List. Sure, a respectable salary and health insurance were seductive, but not the physical toll that high school education usually took on me.
A week later, the dean of the local college called me up. His voicemail message was something like this:
“Mr. Restivo. This is ——- at the college. Hey, I have a situation here. It’s a position in the Writing Center. I’m embarrassed to even offer it to you since it doesn’t come with a teaching position. But if by any chance this is something you’re interested in, give me a call, although I can understand if you don’t want it.”
I called. The next morning, I was signing paperwork in HR. That afternoon, the dean’s secretary called with a teaching position to tack on to my Writing Center duties.
I reflected quite a bit that first year at the college. I missed the after-school time with the high schoolers. Or the bantering back and forth during passing period. The yearbook kids coming in on their days off to go over proofs. Pizza orders. Field trips. All of that was gone. And I came home to hear Laura’s stories of her high school teaching adventures, filled with all the anecdotes I no longer was experiencing. As a teacher who valued that rapport with students, this new teaching gig was a drag. In retrospect, I think it had everything to do with my ego. I liked being the popular teacher. Who wouldn’t like that?
So I invested my time into improving professionally, rewriting curriculum, finishing the doctorate program, joining committees. But that was after a semester of self-pity and a concurrent Crohn’s flare-up that would have me losing 40 pounds and landing myself in the hospital. In fact, family members took turns administering my finals because I was so sick.
The next semester, I hit the refresh button. Today, I’m loving the type of rapport a college professor builds with students. It’s different, sure. I also like that I can listen to Laura complain about the opening days of her district’s professional development and know that I don’t have to put up with that this fall. I don’t have to teach 7 classes in a day. I don’t have to call parents. There’s no hall duty or bus duty. Of the many factors (outside of God and family, and Netflix) that have helped me gain focus, it’s the stress enema that has taken place over the last two years. And for the first time in a while, I don’t lament the decisions I made years ago that have me where I am now.
But ask me again in four weeks when the papers for my 7 classes come in.