Some people might call me crazy. During a major economic downturn, why would I leave a full-time, decent paying union job with pension and benefits? That’s a big risk to take at 36 years old. Maybe I am crazy. After all, I don’t know if this is truly the right career path for me. But this idea has been at the back of my head for a long time.
This idea is to become an elementary school teacher. As a child, I would spend all my free evenings devising classwork for my stuffed animal students, planning lessons and pretending to give lectures. My favourite childhood gift was my very own chalkboard. Even now, when I see interesting things I think, “I would love to teach kids about that,” or “wouldn’t it be neat if kids learned how to do that?”
I am worried, though. Will teaching kids be enough of a challenge after my years of working with adults? Will I end up with a lot of debt? What if I don’t like it? What if I do poorly in school? What if I can’t find a job when I am finished? What if it harms my relationship?
“Some principals only hire young teachers,” warned my mother-in-law, who made her living as a teacher’s aid.
“You are going to be so poor,” my mother fretted, as she is also trying to help my niece and nephews with school costs.
“Going back to university can cause a lot of stress in a relationship,” my father-in-law cautioned.
All of these things are true. I will be 38 when I finish school. I will be poor for the next several years. There will be challenges for my relationship. But has letting fear prevent me from doing things ever helped?
I spent many years finding jobs I thought would fulfill me and provide a good income because I was too unsure or afraid of trying anything else. I could stay in my job and perhaps grow into a different administrative position in the city, but would I be truly happy? What about that thought in the back of my head that tells me I want to be a teacher? I don’t think I would forgive myself if I didn’t try.
A quote my friends sent me helped me make my decision:
“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I am not living.” -Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Header Image: Writer Nicola Dakers pondered going back to school for a long time. Credit: Mark Parsons