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

Teaching – a new school year begins

As many of you know, I am a teacher.  Let me explain…I am a certified teacher, it’s who I am.  However, when the going got tough (a.k.a no teaching jobs available) I had to do what many certified teachers do – I got a different job.  I mean I was 27, in debt way over my head and I knew that while teaching was something I loved, I had to do something that would be fulfilling – and supply teaching every now and then wasn’t going to be it.

So I stuck with the City of Toronto, kept my seniority and applied for full-time jobs.  I was granted a full-time Support Assistant job with Employment and Social Services which led me to apply for a case-worker position.  I have no regrets.  Trust me, if you had asked me four years ago if I would regret leaving the teaching field for a City job, I was sure the answer would be yes, but this job has led me to Employment Services and teaching adults and older youth to find sustainable employment and I have had a lot of success.  I have met some amazing people – both residents and co-workers and I am happy.

However, teaching children is still in my heart.  It’s still what makes me smile.  Last night I was emptying boxes and I came across three teaching boxes.  These boxes were filled with books, supplies, lesson plans…the whole nine-yards.  It made me a bit sad, a bit nostalgic I guess I could say. 

However, I keep my OCT certification up to date, I pay my fee’s, read my teaching magazine and have a lot of teaching friends.  So one-day, maybe, I can do some upgrading and make my original dreams come true.  I don’t rule anything out.  Right now with the way the Provincial government is treating our teachers, I am glad I don’t have to deal with that headache.  It’s bad enough having the city trash the work you do, but the PROVINCE??  No thank you!

My youngest niece begins grade 7 today and my oldest niece enters high school!  I cannot believe it’s been two full months since their graduations from 6th and 8th grade!  I wish them both the best of luck, entering new schools with strange teachers and peers is tough – I hope they can survive the first day of school with the charm and wit I know they both have!  My nephjew enters 11th grade!  Meaning two more years of high school and he is done!  WOW…time freaking flys and I just want to throw them all back to childhood and hug and snuggle them forever!

XOXO Nikilee

A little bit of a “What If” scenario

I hate “what if’s”, life is full of consequences – good and bad – and I just don’t like to think of the way things COULD have been.  I’m not a coulda, woulda, shoulda kind of girl.  But sometimes, when it’s late at night and I am feeling especially sorry for myself for one reason or another, I think “what if”.

Last night I was in some discomfort from my wound and feeling a bit depressed over the idea of it not healing *ya thanks Home Care nurse, I could have told you that* and I made the mistake of letting my mind wander.  I thought back to where one of the biggest changes came in my life and almost immediately I knew.

In my last year of University, I knew I hadn’t gotten into teachers college – my grades had slipped and I didn’t have nearly enough volunteer experience to make me worthy of a Ontario College so I began to think of possibilities.  I knew Buffalo and Australia were possibilities, but I honestly had NO desire to spend $20,000 to go to school since Trent had cost $25,000.  Now I had never been anywhere in my life – ever.  I may have been to Buffalo once or twice, and Ottawa on a school trip, but really when you are born in raised in Toronto – none of these places bring on excitement.  I knew what I wanted to do.  I wanted to go overseas to Korea or Japan and teach for a year and see where that brought me.  I had started dreaming of this, even possibly bringing Filipino boy with me since he didn’t have a career that he was invested in at the time, but also in reality I think I knew we weren’t going to last, that we had started to grow apart.  One of my old roommates had discussed this possibility as well and I knew me and him could go together and we would have a blast supporting each other. 

But the dream that had been mainly private up to that point came crashing down, when in November 2003 I got a phone call from my sister-in-law.  My dad had been admitted to the hospital, it didn’t look good.  I had to get home immediately.  I got Filipino boy to pick me up and I came home to a disaster.  My father had full fledge Diabetes, kidney failure, heart failure – you name it he had it.  He was minutes away from death when he was admitted.  He went on dialysis (four times a day at home thank you), insulin and an array of medication that would keep him alive.  I had never been so scared in my entire life up to that point.  All my plans immediately fell through the window.  I knew that since I was graduating University that coming April, that I would move home and take care of my father.  The way he took care of me when my mother left in 1994 and I was a 13 year-old girl lost and confused in the new world of being a teenager. 

My dad came home before Christmas and was re-admitted after Christmas for further heart problems.  He was released sometime in January after I had already gone back to school.  I never mentioned my dreams of travelling the world, of experiencing Asia to many people because they would try to tell me to go – to “do me” – that my dad would be okay. 

I thank God every day that he was and still is, okay, that he lived through that devastating time – and again last August when another Heart Attack brought him back to the Hospital for another 5 weeks.  But I just know I never would have forgiven myself had I gone to Asia and something had happened to him.  If he had died while I was away travelling and having a grand old-time.  I would have regretted it every single day. 

I have had other options of travelling to teach (Nevada when I got my teaching degree from Medaille College in 2007) but it was never the right time.  I missed my opportunity.  Please do not get me wrong.  This is not a regret.  I just wonder what if I had gone to Korea or Japan to teach, how would my life have been different?

For starters, Filipino Boy and I would have broken up three months sooner than we did.  I would never have dated douche bag who spent seven months emotionally tearing me apart while my self-esteem swam in the toilet and I would not have kept my job with the City of Toronto.  It’s that last one that makes me okay with my final decision.  Starting as a summer student with the COT allowed me to work my way up, by networking and making great connections with people.  I now (8 years after graduating) have a job I love.  It’s not a teaching job, but it’s a job where I get to help people change their lives by finding last employment in careers they love.  It’s an important role – one I wish was more recognized, but it IS important so I consider myself a success. 

Depending on how long I stayed overseas, a lot of other could have and would have changed in my life.  Me and GBF might never have dated and probably would never have gotten to be as close of friends as we were before dating, I never would have met the ladies from baseball who are some of my closest friends today which means I never would have met Newbie.  I also never would have become as close to Crazy Cat Lady and that (and meeting Newbie whom has changed my life forever) is not acceptable. 

So while I would have had worldly experience, fulfilled my love of travel and spent time learning a new culture and teaching!!!!!! I would have lost out on so much more.  I’ll take the good with the bad.  I’ll accept that I am where I am supposed to be.  That happy or not happy, God has a plan for me, and that plan was not to teach overseas.  I accept that.  However, now maybe you can see why I was awake half the night thinking of all the opportunities I missed out on and what opportunities I would have missed out on had I gone.

XOXO Nikilee