In an instant—everything changed.
I had a paper in my hand that I truly didn’t feel represented me or what I believed in. Over a weeks time I thought about what I could put that would just get me off the hook, keep me with my students, and allow me to steer clear of unpaid leave. I even went as far as printing it out.
I texted my husband, “I am not turning this in today. I love you.” That day I received an email from the district office that stated I needed to submit whether I was going to take an unpaid leave of absence or resign. I wasn’t quitting my job though, I wanted to be there, to work, and certainly to be with my students. We had amazing projects going on and had created an incredible schedule that both students and teachers were ecstatic about. We were doing what is best for kids and it showed because student’s were pumped to be at school.
Breaking the News
A week later, I cried with my students as I explained that sometimes life isn’t fair and everything happens for a reason. Two themes from a book I knew a majority of my students read the year before. That day lead up to a five day weekend due to Parent/Teacher Conferences. As a class full of 4th and 5th grade students bawled their eyes out, they were introduced to their new teacher.
With two hours left in the school day, I took the kids outside. We walked the track to get our minds off of the current reality of our state. Students would share stories from their lives, telling me about their mom who was forced to receive the vaccine to stay in her position, and the side effects she was now experiencing. They asked me what was so special about October 18th? Why couldn’t they wait until the end of a trimester or the end of the school year? Even better yet, why couldn’t they have had this mandate in place at the beginning of the school year?
The seconds leading up to telling my students about my decision, I connected this experience to DARE. The DARE Program has moved away from just educating students about drugs and increasing their awareness of the impact drugs can have on your life. DARE is a program that all 5th graders participate in in our state. My students wouldn’t know exactly what I was talking about until they start into that curriculum this spring with their designated Student Resource Officer.
I started in telling students that throughout their life they are going to have SO many decisions to make. There may be multiple good options, or there may be a clear “good” or “bad” decision to decide between. I told them that sometimes you have to choose what is best for you and/or your family even though it will mean there are some negative and positive impacts. For myself, this decision was clear as night and day, as for what was right for me although I knew it would have short-term negative impacts on students and my bank account. You have to stick to what you stand for though.
End of Chapter
I was asked to turn in my keys, technology, and have all my belongings out by Friday at 12p.m. The items that belonged to me were methodically placed in my SUV to maximize space. I carefully maneuvered the load home, and the peace of my decision really set in. When we trust our gut, when we stick to our morals, that sense of peace is our reward. No, the peace doesn’t pay the bills, but at the end of the day I would rather feel good about my decisions and what I stand for than have a little extra jingle in my pocket.
Moving Your Line
All of this to say, this is what the heck I have been up to. I no longer have a class of 25 students. There is no longer a paycheck that drafts on the 20th. Yes, I sure do have more time with my two babies. Also, I am still getting to work with some amazing students as an academic coach. Unpaid leave is a buzz word all over the country right now. It is a threat being used and successfully taking the positions of capable and experienced individuals. For those of you taking the road less traveled, I know you will be blessed in ways you cannot imagine. Cheers to standing up for what you stand for friends!