Why I'm Leaving Education...
So I have some exciting news! I have begun a new job and am so excited for this next path! I wanted to share a bit of backstory to explain the path my career has taken since the beginning.
COLLEGE AND GRAD SCHOOL
In college I began as an advertising major. I loved art and writing and as an 18 year old I thought this was the best career path to combine my two passions. However, my sophomore year I took my first advertising class and really hated it. I remember the professor explaining that if we were going to work in advertising we basically had to convince consumers they were nothing and needed our products to be something. It felt dirty to me and just left a bad taste in my mouth. That year I also took a women’s history class and had the most amazing professor. It felt like a light bulb going on. I couldn’t believe that my teachers in high school never covered the fact that women were a part of history and the roles they played. I became so passionate about ensuring that no other girls grew up not knowing the significance of women in history. That year I changed my major to American Studies with a minor in women’s history. I had decided that I wanted to be a professor. I did really well in college and got a great offer from a PhD program at a grad school. I was being provided my education plus a yearly stipend in exchange for being a Teaching Assistant for one class per semester. It was a gift and I was so excited. However, once I got to grad school, it was an eye opening experience. I was surrounded by a group of intellectual all stars and all of a sudden I didn’t feel like I belonged. After my first year, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to complete my Phd like I had planned. I went through major anxiety and panic attacks became more and more frequent. I decided to complete my masters and end my enrollment in the program. I do from time to time wish I had persisted or found the support I needed to get through the program. However, at the time, it was 100% necessary for me to leave the doctorate program.
After I received my masters, I worked for 3 years in a small museum in upstate NY. It was a great experience. Being a small museum meant that I was able to be involved in so many aspects of the museum. I was in the education department and then became public programs manager. I learned so much and while I enjoyed it, the museum was not doing well. As a non-profit organization, cuts were always being made. Staffing was limited and talks of operating with a smaller staff were constant. While I was in my 3rd year I became pregnant with my daughter. This wasn’t planned, but it was a blessing. The relationship I had with my daughter’s father wasn’t one that was established enough to lead to marriage and I knew that I would be raising her on my own. My worries about my career became greater, knowing I would have a daughter to support. After she was born I began looking for other career opportunities. When my daughter was 6 months old I met my now husband. Within 6 months he was moving to NYC to attend graduate school and asked me to come with him. It was fast, but it felt right.
I applied for many jobs and received an offer as a teaching assistant at a private progressive school. I honestly had never thought I would be a teacher. I had my passion for ensuring that the next generation was taught differently than I was and my time as a museum educator inspired me that the ways we could teach children were so much more vast. The school I worked in was amazing. I ended up a lead teacher and worked there for ten years. Being a private school I was not required to have a teaching certificate or license. My masters degree and time spent as a teaching assistant qualified me for the lead teacher position. Being a progressive school meant we did not give grades, nor did we do testing. Educators created our own curriculum within loose guidelines. It gave me so much creative freedom to teach to the kids' interests. My ten years at this school were amazing for so many reasons. I worked with amazing educators, brilliant students and supportive families. However, during my tenure the school was expanding rapidly and the operations of the school were not stable. During my 9th and 10th year I was one of the few staff that had been there long term. I felt such a commitment to the school and the families that I let myself feel the stress of ensuring the school remained strong and successful. I constantly felt fighting for the school's success even though that wasn’t within my power. I realized the atmosphere was becoming more toxic for me and when my husband found out that his job was relocating it was the perfect opportunity for change. I was heartbroken to leave the community I had established but also knew it was the right thing to do at that time.
We moved to the DC suburbs in 2013 and I made the decision to not work right away. We knew that as a family we were going to be adjusting to a lot of change. I had two kids at that point, one beginning middle school and the other starting kindergarten. I was in the fortunate position to be able to take some time off and be there for my kids. Within the first 6 months I realized that I missed working and began thinking about going back to education. I was offered a full time teaching position at a private school which I ultimately declined. The pay, the travel and the hours meant I would have to do so much juggling to make it work for our family. Instead I began substituting in the public school system that my kids were in. This meant that the hours I worked were very closely aligned with the hours my kids were in school. I primarily worked in two schools that were very close to our home. I enjoyed subbing because I did not have the full responsibility of a teacher. It was such a relief to leave work at work and not spend evenings and weekend planning. What I missed though was the connections and the community that comes with being in one place or with one group of students and staff. During my time as a sub my favorite placement was in a long term job as a Media Specialist (aka school librarian). I held this job for a 5 month term and loved it. At that point I began considering going back to grad school to become certified as a media specialist but the thought of putting more time and money into schooling was daunting. I realized I could work as a Media Assistant without a specialized degree. The pay would be only slightly higher than a substitute but would give me regular hours and the community I longed for. During this time I became pregnant with my third child. I stayed home with him for 7 months before I began looking for a media assistant job. I knew I wanted to be close to home and for it to be part-time. I secured a position in 2015. This was a great job and I truly enjoyed it. The demands were minimal and I got to be creative in book displays and got to know the students and the resources. I worked with an amazing Media Specialist and we quickly became great friends. In 2021, my 5th year in this position we were in the middle of the pandemic and my position was not one that could be done virtually. So I was placed in the role of a para-educator supporting kindergarten students via zoom. It was fine, but it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. When we returned to in person school in March of 2021 I was again reassigned. I was supporting 3rd grade hybrid instruction during the morning, I had lunch and recess duty and then had an hour and a half in the library each afternoon. It was frustrating. I knew a lot of staff were being pulled in different directions to make things work but I spent the last year doing jobs I wasn’t hired for and felt deflated.
So much of the pandemic gave me time to really think about what I wanted to be doing. I knew I did not want to be a para-educator. I knew I did not want to have to go back to school to earn another degree. I really didn’t want to go back to full time teaching, even in a private school. I started looking into museum jobs, jobs in admissions at private schools and jobs that would allow me to be more creative. I did a lot of soul searching and spent a lot of time thinking about what would make me happy, not just what would work best for everyone else. I realize that is a luxury and not one everyone can pursue. I’m so grateful that my husband financially supports our family and that I have been given the gift of following my heart.
I got really intrigued by home staging after a neighbor sold her home and had it staged. I was so curious about the business. I began researching and reading and learning. I have been passionate about home renovations, remodeling and decor for as long as I can remember. Bob Villa was my first crush as a little girl and the only TV channel I watch is HGTV! So I began looking into staging and all that it entailed. I figured I could take some training courses or get certified but didn’t know if a job would follow. During the spring of 2021 I was browsing job listings when I came across one for a home staging business looking for an assistant. On a whim I applied. When I got a call for an interview I was thrilled but with no industry experience I wasn’t hopeful. I spent a lot of time thinking about how my previous experiences could be transferable and how my passion to learn and grow could be an asset. I had a phone interview and two in person interviews before I was offered the job. I was ecstatic. One thing I had learned during the pandemic is that life is short and precious and I knew I had to take a chance to do something different, something that was for me and not just because it provided a pay check or worked perfectly with my kids schedules. The job required me to begin at the end of May. However, I did not feel comfortable leaving my school job for the remaining 4 weeks. It worked out that I was able to use some of my personal time off and work some of the days in order to complete the school year, while also beginning part time at the new job. So while I had been used to working part time (20 hours) with one weekday a week off, I’ve spent the last few weeks working two jobs and more hours than I have been used to. It’s been stressful starting a new job learning so many new things. But it’s also been so exciting. After only a few weeks in my new job I am already feeling more settled and more familiar with all that my job entails. I know I still have so much to learn but I am thrilled to be a part of it. June 25th will be my final day at the school and will wrap up my 5th year as a Media Assistant and my 8th year in the public school system. It’s been great but I am so ready for a change.
My new position will primarily be in operations for a home staging and interior design firm. It is a small company owned by a woman entrepreneur whom I admire greatly. I will be assisting in staging and de-staging properties, consulting with clients, sharing contracts, updating invoices and working with vendors. I'll be working around 28 hours a week which does require some balancing of child care and for now I'm fortunate that my husband is working from home and can help with summer camp pick-ups! I can’t wait to share more with you as this journey unfolds. I know how blessed I am that I am able to pursue my dream and so grateful for each opportunity!
Thanks for reading my career story!