Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Summer's comin!

At this time last year, I was peacefully working at a local private preschool with a classroom full of silly 3 & 4 year olds. I was tickled to be there and loving life.

Fast forward several weeks. In late June I saw some openings for the school district my kids attend on the school website & sent an email to the principals of the schools where those openings were. I didn't expect to hear anything back. For several years now, I've done the same thing mid-summer, inquiring about jobs but never hearing anything. I really didn't expect anything different this year.

Fast forward a few more weeks. As the summer drew to a close, one of the principals called me. Another one emailed back. Whoa. All the sudden there were 2 jobs to consider. I had an interview for both, just days apart. I was a little stumped about what to think. Honestly, I'd sent in those emails as a matter of testing the waters, but I really LIKED my job & didn't want to make a change. Sure, a better paying job would be good for my family, but my selfish heart just wanted to stay where I was comfortable. I sort of halfway hoped that the Lord would return before I had to make such a tough choice....to take a new job or not. {Sure, I realize that it's not nearly as tough a decision as anything life or death...but it was huge in that moment!}

Before interview #1, I realized some things about the job & knew that I didn't want the job unless I could clear those things up in the interview. When it became clear in the interview that those issues I had were not going away, I made the choice to walk away & say "no thanks".

On the day of interview #2, I practically begged God to not let it work out.....but told Him in resignation that if this was His will, I'd rest in that & make the change. Wouldn't you know it? The interviewer practically begged me to accept the job. The pay was about the same as my preschool job, but I would be paid a salary vs an hourly wage for the first time in my life. And I was offered benefits. Clearly, it made sense to take the job. So I did. I came home in a stunned panic. What had I done? I didn't want to change jobs. I spent the next several days saying "oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh." I called my (then) boss and told her that I'd taken the new job. She understood. I was still kind of hoping Larry would come home with news of a giant raise in his pay so that I wouldn't have to go through with it. But that didn't happen.

On the first day of the new job, my new coworkers were precious! They took me in like mama hens and showed me every step of the way what to do, how to do it, who to ask for help. They loved on me, encouraged me and basically made me feel at home. Every single person felt like a mom, a sister, a friend....from day 1. How could I not like this job? I went home & cried my eyes out for about 3 hours. I guess all the pent-up emotion & fear & nerves & frustration of the past couple of weeks finally HIT and it was like a tidal wave of tears that I couldn't stop. I missed my little ones in the preschool class like crazy. It killed me that I didn't get to tell them goodbye or explain where I was going. I just left. I know 95% of the kids never missed me, but it was the 5% who came in wondering "Where is Ms. Liz???" that broke my heart.

For weeks, I longed to go buy a lottery ticket (and win!) so that I could quit the new job & go back to my first love (my sweet babies!) but that never happened. As the year progressed, I spent less time thinking of my preschool friends and more time being excited about who was graduating this week, how my coworker (who I've lovingly referred to as my work sister) was doing with some health issues, how another coworker was when he lost his son in an accident, praying for my boss's father who faced some major surgery and so on. I got caught up in the grown-up world of working with big people all day (and kids who think they're big people). The year has FLOWN by. And I've learned to love my job. But I love it for a million different reasons than I loved my preschool teaching job.

Yes, I still miss being hugged around the knees & wiping noses. I still miss sitting in Circle Time & reading stories. I still miss washing little hands & cleaning paint off the table after craft time. I miss playdough and glitter. I miss helping them climb the ladders & slip down the slides. I miss wiping tears & hugging little bodies. I miss the science experiments & math manipulatives & seeing the discovery in their eyes when they learn to lace shoelaces through cards with holes punched in them.

But I like dressing in grown up clothes and wearing jewelry. I like cracking jokes with 17 & 18 year olds that 3-5yr olds wouldn't understand. I like sharing my workspace with a Christian lady who feels as much like a sister as a coworker. I like watching the kids succeed & grin when they graduate. I like living out all my number crunching, paperwork, OCD fantasies. And yes, I like bringing home a paycheck even when I'm not at work!

As the school year is drawing to a close, I've pondered what will become of my job in the Fall. You see, our state (much like the rest of the country) is facing a budget crisis of epic proportions. There is talk state-wide of eliminating "non-teaching positions" like mine. There is question about filling any openings that are created between now & next Fall as teachers/aides/clerical workers retire, move away or quit. Can the district afford to hire anyone to replace them? I've just crossed my fingers & hoped for the best, knowing that if all else fails, I know of at least 2 preschools that would hire me in a moment if I called & told them I needed a job.

A week or so ago, I found out about a pre-K classroom in the school district whose teacher's aide is leaving at the end of the year. I sent an email to the principal & the classroom teacher and let them know I'm interested. (And of course I let my current principal know as well...didn't want this to sneak up on her & be a surprise if they called about a reference for me later.) The teacher responded that she'd love to work with me, but like I already knew, there was no plan to hire for the position 'til the budget crisis is worked out. So who knows? I might get an interview. Or I might not. I might get to make a switch to a job that will make my heart go pitter-patter next Fall. Or I might not. There's certainly no evidence that even if I do get an interview, I would get hired. There may be 20 other people who want this position as well. And that's assuming that the district fills this position at all!

And as if that wasn't enough to be excited about, yesterday I got an email from my old preschool (the one I was working at this time last year). The directors need some more summer teachers & asked if I could take a class for the summer. You better betcha I quickly typed back an email saying YES! I am so excited! (and extra money this summer with the budget crisis looming over us will be all the better!!)

As I look at the potential of a new position in the Fall (*if* it works out), I can't help but wonder if God brought me to the school district job I have now so that I'd be available to consider this new position. As it is hard to get "in" with the district unless you're already on the payroll, it's almost certain that I wouldn't be considered for the Pre-K aide position in the Fall if I was not already an employee.

As with so many things in my life, I was DRUG into my current job kicking & screaming. I've slowly warmed up to it and found a million reasons to appreciate it. And now I'm excited for God to show me what's next. Or if there is a 'next'. If He's got another season for me at the current job, I will gladly accept that as His will. If He's got a new place for me in a Pre-K classroom this Fall, I will gladly accept that as well. And in the meantime, I get to go play in a preschool classroom this summer!

How much more blessed could one girl get??


Tara and Ryan said...

Oh LIZ!!! What a wonderful post! I know the joy those babies give you! It's so cool that now you are being used in preschoolers world and stretched to work with the school age kids. If you ever work full time at preschool again, it will be REALLY REALLY hard for me not to try to work there with you! LOL I sorta love me some Liz:) xoxo!! And lets work on that date of ours!

Rachel said...

I really admire and appreciate anyone that can and loves teaching preschool/daycare kids. My little nephew is 3 and is very shy even around his family but he adores his "school" teachers. They are so patient with him and kind to him even when he is at his most difficult. And believe me that boy can be difficult, but they love on him anyway. You guys are amazing!!