Do you choose your choice??

Growing up I knew beyond any doubt that I would be a famous actress an elementary school teacher.  I used to line up my stuffed animals and teach them to read and to do math.  I was an excellent teacher to Mr Bear, my barbies, my little ponies and Frisky my pound puppy. 

Growing up I never waivered from that dream.  I went to University, I got a degree, I went to teachers college in the States which allowed me be practical and keep my part time job while volunteering with different classes and the Girl Guides of Canada and I successfully got my B.Ed.  I assumed with my degree, my volunteer experience and my love for children and education, that all my dreams would come true the minute I graduated from Medaille. 

Not all dreams are meant to come true though – even when it’s all you have ever wanted.  Sometimes plans have to change.  

When I graduated I ended up being one in a million who applied for the same few spots available for the September 2008 school year.  Applying to the Toronto Board was a whole other story.  I never even was called for an interview.  I was so disappointed. I had options though – I could stay in Ontario, continue volunteering and hope for the best for next year or I could move – teach overseas (I had achieved my TESL certificate in 2004).  With my dad being ill and in a serious relationship with GBF at the time, I opted to stay at home and continue volunteering.  I worked for the City of Toronto as a Support Assistant so I wasn’t hurting for money at least – compared to approximately 90% of my graduating class who also did not find immediate work upon graduating.  

Two years later – just as I was about to get put on the supply list with the Durham board of education, an opportunity came for me to be a Caseworker with Social Services.  This position came with a huge pay hike and some certainty.  My seniority was caring with me and I would be eligible for benefits, vacation and sick days. 

I could have easily at this point said screw it and took the supply list and given up my city job – but who does that?  Risk-takers, brave people who leap without a safety net thats who. 

I am not that person.  I have always gone where it was responsibly correct for me to go.  Having something solid and sturdy to land on has been how I have lived my life and I didn’t feel ready to change that – I can’t say I regret it, even though those who supported and encouraged my teaching dream sure whish I had. 

I gave up my dreams of teaching to move into Social Work.  I loved it from the moment I started (not that it’s always been perfect) and when I moved into employment and helping others find stable, reliable employment I felt I could talk honestly to them about choosing stability over dreams – but if dreams are what they wanted, I knew I could and would do everything in my power to make those dreams come true.  I wish mine had. 

I wish I was closing up my classroom right now, struggling to finish report cards while my students prepare for summer break.  The truth is – it’s not a good time to be a teacher.  With political uproars happening and schools closing, violence in the classrooms erupting, there is a part of me that enjoys the comfort of being in a full time permenant position with the City I love.  I’m grateful I don’t worry about being surplussed.  

Then there is the other part of me that sees friends and aquaintences throw caution to the wind to reach their dreams – they travel globally teaching wherever a classroom is available, whether that be China, Korea or Istanbul.  They pack up their bags and they get on a plane and say ciao to loved ones, leaving family members behind and creating new lives.  A part of me – is jealous.  I wish so badly that I had gone to Korea when I graduated from Trent in 04, but I chose stability.  I see people now – regularly who quit their jobs to make their dreams come true.  People who quit high paying, stable jobs that they no longer love in order to be satisfied at work.  I want to scream at them “what will you do for money?  What will you do all day?” But I don’t.  I smile at them and secretly marvel at the courage it took them to leave their comfort for the unknown.  

Sometimes I secretly imagine I am that girl.  I imagine I surprise everyone by quitting my job and moving somewhere exotic like Australia to teach.  I fall in love with an Aussie and I become a world traveler…But when I wake up, when my 7:00 alarm wakes me up and I get dressed for work, I smile because I know I chose my choice.  I enjoy my job and I have many people in my life who were not at lucky as I was.  Who work part time or full time jobs, not in teaching that they don’t enjoy.  That they don’t smile at when their alarm wakes them up in the morning.  I am blessed. 

What happens to the herd of students graduating from teachers college this year.  I mean hop on any facebook page or website dedicated to Ontario Teachers and you will hear more often then not, people complaining about the lack of positions available.  Many people stay in Long Term Occassional (LTO) positions or on the Supply list for years before something comes up – only to be surplussed the following year.  

It’s so unfortunate and until the College stands up to protect the unemployed teachers who are amazing, educated, qualified, passionate individuals, we all swim for the same boat – a boat I chose to get off a long time ago and a boat I have missed everyday since.  

XOXO Nikilee


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