The (sometimes) Benefit of Not Living the Dream

Last week I took what might be the most frightening job offer of my life.  Thank goodness it’s only temporary, because this is crazier than the theater camp I managed, the urban school in Boston, and all my sub stories combined.  Four years ago I wouldn’t have considered this job for a second.  I would have laughed at the idea and wondered at the discretion of the employer for offering it to me.  Even the threat of complete unemployment wouldn’t have changed my mind.  It’s not in my skill set, so I can’t do it.  Yet, after mulling it over, visiting the job site, and speaking to all parties involved (and then some), I accepted the challenge.

I am now a 3rd grade teacher.

Not just any 3rd graders, either — a group of nine and ten-year-olds so rambunctious that the school called me in as a Hail Mary to help them survive until the end of the year.

Technically, I’m team-teaching, so I’m not on my own, but still…  How did even that happen?  I’m a high school teacher; I love my teenagers!  How did I willingly put myself in a room full of nine and ten-year- old kids all day?  And attention-seeking, mischief-causing 3rd graders to boot.  Not going to lie – it’s so far out of my comfort zone that sometimes I wonder when I’ll wake up and sigh with relief when I realize I’ve been dreaming.  

However, I’ve built my career out of throwing myself into unknown, uncomfortable job situations and making the best of it.  As a nomadic teacher, I haven’t had the luxury of pickiness.  A paycheck is a paycheck, and I consider myself blessed simply to have been able to stay in the field of education through all our moves.  That being said, this is not the first job that I’ve come this close to turning down.  It’s not the first time I’ve questioned my abilities to complete the tasks offered to me.  I have this ideal dream job built up in my mind — and I’ve been privileged enough to have been offered that job twice in my life.

I know what it’s like to wake up every morning excited to go to work.  I know the thrill of career fulfillment, of a passion realized, and the joy of making a difference in the world.  That’s why other jobs always scared me so much, and why I almost turned a few down.  It’s hard to have felt that joy and fulfillment of a dream job and then face the prospect of doing something that’s way more intimidating than it is exciting.  Sometimes the stress of the day-to-day grind without the personal reward got to me.  Sometimes I felt like quitting, screaming, or shaking some sense into my colleagues.  Sometimes I dreaded getting out of bed in the morning because it meant facing another day at a job I didn’t like.  However, those scary jobs that I almost turned down and dreaded working are some of the most impressive on my résumé.  The scary jobs have improved my abilities and expanded my skill set.  I’m a better teacher because of them, and I’m better equipped for my dream job when it rolls around again.  I don’t want to go back to them, but I’m grateful for the role those jobs have played in my life.

So I really don’t know what teaching 3rd grade for three months will do for me, but I didn’t turn down the job.  I’ve been in the classroom for about a week now, and I’m still not sure what I’ll take away at the end of all this.  Maybe just affirmation that I belong in the high school classroom.  Maybe I’ll have a better appreciation for the elementary education students receive before they cross my path.  And maybe I’ll take away some strategies that could be modified for high school.  I don’t know.  Maybe it will be something else entirely.  I can already tell I’m not going to be converted to an elementary teacher, but I’ve survived a week and even made a little bit of a difference already.  And that’s pretty cool, no matter what.

What about you?  How have you benefited from not living the dream?

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4 thoughts on “The (sometimes) Benefit of Not Living the Dream

  1. Goodness, reminisce on my first week being a ‘lunch monitor’ at my elementary.. I tripped over my pants and fell over in front of the entire classroom, being excited as I was for my friend to come also and relief-accompany me.

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  2. Yes, I did have my dream job. For a year and a half. It had everything I wanted and needed, except for the lame pay (but it was suppose to get better over time). I was expected to work 20-25 hours a week, I was doing more like 60, because I loved it so much (I had a fixed monthly salary, so it didn’t help). I learned a lot, I thought my career had just begun and I thought I would be doing just that for the rest of my life. And then it died. The boss screwed it and the company closed.

    For a while, I tried to find a similar job, I just wanted to dream to go on. But soon I realized it had been just that, a dream. I didn’t have a diploma and my experience there wasn’t acknowledged.

    I have had many other jobs, both before and after that one. Some I liked, but most were because I needed the money. I know what it is to wake in the morning and fear to get up, fear to go through another day. No, I wouldn’t do any of these boring jobs again today, but these jobs I hated the most were does who have been the most rewarding on the long term, for my life. They helped me figure who I am, and who I am not.

    Mind you, the job I worked at right now was really just temporary, it was about getting some money until I find something better. I didn’t pick the job because it paid a lot, or because I was going to learn anything, or because it would open any door for better jobs later in my life. Well, that was 7 years ago, and I still work there. I still like it. I wake every morning knowing I will get to see those colleagues which I like. And despite any of my initial expectations, this job taught me more than I could have learned in any other job, it opened me more doors than I could think. It made me learn I love a field I had no idea I could possibly appreciate or like. The wage hasn’t improve, and I know I won’t do it for my entire life, but I really think I’m blessed to have this job. I like most of my days, and I don’t remember having a morning when I really wanted to stay in bed to avoid getting there.

    No, it’s probably not your dream job. No, you will probably not do it for a very long time, or accept similar assignments later in your life. But I suspect you will learn more than you expect. And what you will learn is probably unrelated to what you expect to learn which you listed in your post. I think in several years from now, you will look back and be thankful that you accepted the job.

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