This past September a volunteer opportunity changed everything.
Teach One to Lead One is a program in the US that equips people to go into high schools and work with kids who are struggling in school. It’s about teaching universal principles to students so they will think first before making choices that will affect their whole lives. It’s an incredible program and I have found it very rewarding—the relationships I’ve formed with these kids were a big surprise. I didn’t expect to be so drawn in by their world and to be so invested in their progress. I had forgotten how much I loved teaching. It was like riding a bike and I was beginning to think I wanted to get back on.
Before my girls were born, I taught sixth and fifth grade in our town. I was one of those teachers who spent the better part of Saturday working on units to maximize creative execution in hopes of complete class engagement. I worked very hard at building a rapport with my kids, and a considered the community we were building to be the ticket to a successful and nurturing classroom.
After a couple of years it was clear that teaching was my calling.
After becoming a mom, I also felt that being home with my children was the best thing I could do for them and I let go of my teaching position. I was a stay-at-home mom (a very difficult job, btw—the hardest I’ve ever done) for about 30 seconds and I realized I would need to add something in the mix or I was going to go insane. I wished like crazy that diaper-folding, cleaning and feeding were enough—it would have made it so much easier. Instead I decided to pursue a pie-in-the-sky dream. I wanted to become a photographer and run my own business on the side. As many of you know, “on the side” can sometimes grow and overtake the middle.
When we moved to NY (the girls were 2 and three), the business grew like gangbusters and I was busier than I was in my teaching days, except the hours were more flexible. When we moved back to Washington, I decided to make some strategic changes and I was finally able to incorporate my creative work with motherhood duties. Fast forward to the days before this past September and I was truckin’ along…working with clients, creating art, writing a book, installing exhibits…it was everything I thought I ever wanted. It had become the dream that was manageable.
But then something strange happened.
I began to take full inventory of my daily mood when I was at the studio. I often worked alone—sometimes going days in the photo editing process with only my snoring dogs to keep my company. Many of my Portland clients wanted evenings and weekends for sessions, but I stood firm with my “only when my kids were in school” policy. I protected family time with mother bear gusto and in the process watched my client list shrink a little, a sacrifice I was completely willing to make. But there was that “making a living” thing again and I needed to fill in the gaps….so in came making and selling my art, teaching photography classes, putting on art retreats and book writing. It was a lot of alone time…a lot of hustling to fill classes (the hustle has never really been my thing) and a lot of dark rainy days spent in front of my computer.
I was getting a shoulder jab from somewhere…maybe this wasn’t the dream that I thought it was…? Enter said volunteer opportunity and because God has a sense of humor, my work life seemed to come full circle. I was supposed to teach…and I by teach, I realized it meant going back into the elementary school classroom. I resisted at first, thinking it would pass, but each week with Teach One showed me that it really was the only option.
I got on the substitute roster…’been doing it for months now and incorporated my dog photography business into it. Surprisingly, it worked beautifully and I found myself happier and more at peace with the work I was doing overall. Then one day I stepped into my sweet spot…a fifth grade classroom.
I felt like I was home.
Even as a sub, I connected with the kids and had an amazing day, with two kids on their own accord telling me they thought I was a good teacher. Hearing such words from 10-year-olds caused me to realize that what I’d been missing all these years was the “building a legacy” part of a job. After a day of teaching (even on your worst day), you know you did important work…you are sure of that you made a difference in the lives of people…little people who need you to show them the way. I had missed it without even knowing it and feel incredibly grateful that I rediscovered it.
The other part of teaching that I love is being around other people who think the way I do. I relished having a team of teachers in my grade who were like family. I am not a loner…this has been an important realization in the past year. No matter how hard I try, I will never be the artist who holes up in the studio completely content to work the day away with only Pandora to keep me company. I like being in a bright, cheery school with primary colors splashed on every wall…my heart wide open to receive and give encouragement and love.
I will be interviewing soon for positions that are coming open in our district. I’m so thankful to have old colleagues still around to put in good words…I’m hopeful (and happy) that I will be in front of my own class again…something I dream about a lot lately.
So….where does this leave LBI and Ignite the Heart? They are not going away, just changing. I will take two dog clients a month, continue the work with the Humane Society, and teaach yearly photography classes and Ignite the Heart retreats. It will be a stretch, but I’m not willing to let them go at this point. I’m also very excited at where this whole thing leaves this blog…because MPG won’t be a vehicle for my business (and please know that’s not all it has been up to this point…I can safely say the blog is my heart), I will be able to go hog-wild with what inspires me and what I’m working on. It will be a planet where I “let ‘er rip” creatively….an escape from work for a bit to share all of the passions I have in my life. I’m looking forward to that.
It’s amazing how unexpected things can transpire, writing more of my story…sometimes I like surprises.
Have a fantabulous weekend, Lovelies…spring is here!