I was in Target the other afternoon and there were a hundred million displays of back to school items. I feel like summer just started but in less than a month, a lot of schools in my area start again! And you know what, I couldn’t be more excited 🙂
When I was in school I was one of those abnormal kids who LOVED back to school shopping, planned my first-day outfit like a week in advance, devoured my summer reading material by the end of June, and was seriously ready to go back by August. I liked being with my friends on a consistent basis, I liked to learn, and an academic environment is very comforting to me. Hopefully someone out there can relate…
Anyway, after graduating high school I attended a smaller liberal arts college called Lebanon Valley. It had small classes, a pretty good variety of extra-curricular programs for its size, and professors I absolutely adored. Again, I loved to be there. I loved my cheerleading squad, I loved my classes, I loved the library, I loved how it felt like a community, I loved the people. I am just one of those people who LOVE school. So it should have not surprised me that I should work at a school, right?
I graduated with a history degree from LVC, and although I feel well-acquainted with a wide variety of subjects, second semester of my senior year I began to panic. What the heck am I going to do with a history degree? How am I going to support myself and be an adult in a small town like mine, with a degree that does not present an over-abundance of opportunity. Teaching is obviously the avenue most take, but it is very difficult to get a job. There aren’t that many positions, and with all the education cuts they are making in PA, it is narrowing the gap even more.
So I started searching for jobs and found one at the VA Hospital in the Human Resources Department. Theoretically this makes no sense because I did not have a background in HR, but I met the qualifications and decided to apply anyway. About two months later I got a call to be interviewed.
Now I thought they had totally forgotten about me, or just decided I wasn’ a good fit because I felt like two months was a pretty long time, but I happily agreed to be there the very next week. I was getting dressed, putting on some nice black dress pants, my favorite black pumps, and a button down shirt, a LIME green button down shirt that has a matching vest I purchased at Express a few years before. Ryan looked at me and was like, “CJ, are you seriously going to go to a conservative institution like the VA to interview for a job, with a bright shirt like that? Maybe you should wear white?” Actually yes honey, I am definitely going to go to my interview in one of my favorite shirts because if they don’t want me as is, they don’t want me at all. There is nothing wrong with white, but I personally prefer a little pizzaz. (His apprehension should have been my first clue this position may not be a good fit, and I obviously had a lot more confidence at this point in time to do what I wanted rather than what was “expected.”)
I sit down at this gigantic board room table with three people staring at me and they start shooting out questions; an hour and a half worth of questions; hard questions I really was not prepared to answer. But I left and really did not know how to feel either way. I couldn’t really tell from their reactions how I did?
Another month or so goes by and still no call from the VA. In the meantime I put out a bunch more applications, got a couple of phone calls, had a few interviews, and then in June I got the call.
“Hi this is so and so from the VA. How would you like to join our team?”
What?! After this many months they want me. Wow. We talked for a while and he informed me of the starting salary, other elements of the contract, etc. AND THE FACT THAT I WOULD START MONDAY. This was like Wednesday of the week before they wanted me to start and I had a ton of paperwork to do, a process I had to complete, and a family vacation scheduled for the week they wanted me to start. But after hearing the darn good deal they were offering contractually I really could not turn it down. On paper is sounded absolutely perfect.
On paper that is. I absolutely loved everyone I worked with. They were some of the nicest, most welcoming people I have ever met in a work setting, BUT I did not love HR. It was too much of a desk job, I felt like I was letting people down when I could not meet their needs, there was so much paperwork and computer time…it just was not what I was looking for in a career. (But that does not mean the job wouldn’t be awesome for someone else!)
My unhappiness grew and I went deeper and deeper into my eating disorder to compensate for the adult life I felt like I couldn’t control. I took a medical leave in December thinking once I got healthier my perspective may change. Upon returning home from the hospital Ryan and I had some serious decisions to make. We would be taking a major financial hit if I left my job, especially since there weren’t a ton of great paying positions out there in the current market. But as a family, we decided health and happiness was more important that money and I ended up resigning.
For the next few months I worked a few part-time jobs to help supplement our income while continuing to work on my health, but nothing fulfilled me. I love to work. It gives me a sense of purpose and pride and I wanted to have a career not some random odd jobs on the side. For months I scoured job sites, monster, yahoojobs, anything I could think of searching for anything that seemed remotely appealing.
On a whim I checked my old high school’s website and there was a position open in their alternative education program. Hmm…I remembered this from when I was there. It is a program designed to help those who are not productive within the actual school and who tend to disrupt the academic environment so much they need to be removed. I suppose it is the nice way of saying, “the bad kids.”
My population is typically those who get cited for drug violations, violence, too many disciplinary infractions, etc. They don’t do enough to get completely expelled, but they need a little guidance to get back on track.
I went to the interview, sat in a boardroom much like the one at the VA, but this time my interviewers were my old principal, a new principal, and the head of secondary ed. It was so much more relaxed and fun, and I could already tell I would love this job. I kept thinking, “Please, Please, Please, give me a chance!”
But I was not optimistic because although I have a good report with these men, they were apprehensive about me, a relatively young female, working with a predominantly male, “difficult” group. I thanked them for their time and left hoping they would call but trying not to get my hopes up.
To make a long story short, since I just realized I wrote wayyyy more than I anticipated, the school called the next week and as soon as I could get my background checks, paper work done, and approval from the school board I could start! I was extremely excited! I was going to be back in a place I grew up loving, with people I enjoy, and a student body I was really hoping to help.
You see, in addition to loving academia, one of my life dreams is to help people. There have been so many teachers, peers, coaches, etc. that have helped shape who I am today, and provided me with confidence, hope, and a positive outlook. I want to pay that forward. And most days, at my job, I feel like I do, but there are some I come completely defeated. The good ones, however, make it all worth it 🙂
Technically there is only one class we teach as far as curriculum goes. Since there are around 25 kids (grades 6-12), all on different levels, in a trailer apart from the main buildings core teachers come down to help with their studies. I am there to help in assist them in their academics, but also teach the skills needed for personal and social development.
When people ask what I do, it is often difficult to describe. I usually say, “I wear many hats. I am a parent, teacher, guidance counselor, mentor, friend, coach, teammate, etc.” But regardless of my exact description/title I love what I do. How many people can say they wake up every morning excited to go to work? Or that they miss their job when they have off. I can, and I feel totally blessed. Woo hoo less than a month!
Do you love your job?
If you could do anything in the world for a profession, what would it be?