Sunday, June 23, 2013

The story of why I work

(Pre-reading warning: This is a very long post I wanted to record for myself, so if you don't have the time to read it all- at least scroll down to the last paragraph and watch the video.  Its a good one!)
So now that I am done with my first year teaching kindergarten and my first year back teaching after an eleven year hiatus, I thought it might be time to tell the story of why I have to work.  I taught for 5 years back in the late 90's and during that time I got married, had Finn and got pregnant with Annie.  Once I had Annie I was able to quit and I thought I would NEVER go back.  People would ask me, "Do you think you would ever go back to teaching?" And I would answer, "Well I would if I HAD to."  But really never believing that myself for two reasons-1. Because I didn't honestly believe I would ever HAVE to because if there's one thing my husband is good at- its being a good provider. 2. If I did happen to have to go back to work- I didn't want it to be teaching.  Only someone who has been a teacher- or at least tried to be a good teacher- truly understands how much work it is- especially your first couple of years.  You spend hours and hours preparing your lessons and the pay doesn't even come close to compensating you for your work.  In fact if I ever tried to figure out how much I make per hour based on the number of hours I work beyond my contract hours- I would be so depressed.  In fact just last night Eric and I figured out that one of our teenage neighbors makes more per month mowing lawns than I do teaching. And the problem when I was teaching before was that I never had the same grade two years in a row.  So I was always having to come up with new lesson plans.  So every year was my first.  So 12 years ago I left teaching and tried to not let the door hit me on the way out!
So fast forward about 10 years, 4 kids and life in general later- and I find myself not quite in the life I had planned.  Which, by the way, I could write a whole post about because whose life really does turn out the way they planned it?!?  I think that may be one of the points of life but I won't go down that philosophical road for the time being and just say that my plan of never having to work was slowly dissolving.  Eric was diagnosed with a potentially debilitating condition that could render his awesome "provider powers" useless if he didn't get the medication he needed to slow down the disease process.  And being a self- employed provider superhero, his insurance didn't cover the medication he needed.  And there was no way we could afford the medication on our own- can you say additional house payment?
At this point in my tale I am going to go one a little side journey.  Eric was diagnosed with this condition in 2007 and for about 3 years his doctor was trying lots of different treatments/ medications.  The aforementioned "house payment" med is a last resort- not only because of its price but also because if it doesn't work -nothing will.  We were coming close to the end of the road with the other treatments when I went on a little girls retreat with some friends to St George.  I was talking with a friend who was asking me that all too common question "Do you think you will ever go back to teaching?"  I half- heartedly said(because remember i didn't really want to ever go back to teaching) "Maybe if I could go part time because but it was hard to go part time these days because most districts have phased out job shares- unless of course I taught kindergarten."  To which she replied, "You would make an awesome kindergarten teacher."  As soon as she said that I had an experience I have only had maybe once or twice in my life.  It was like those words completely skipped my ears and brain and went straight to my heart.  I immediately knew that was what I was going to have to do.  It was such a peaceful feeling, very unlike the feeling I had had before when I even thought about going back to teaching before, that I knew it was beyond me.  And it important to note that this conversation happened about a month before this next one.
Eric and I were driving somewhere and he started talking about his latest doctor visit for his condition.  The conversation went something like this: his doctor said he needed to figure out a way to get the "house payment" medication because nothing else is working and if he goes untreated he would be in a wheelchair by the time he was 45.  And the only way he could figure out to make it all work would be for me to go back to teaching so we could get government insurance- which despite the lousy pay- is a great benefit for teaching.  I think if I hadn't had the previous experience I would have been a lot more resistant to the idea of going back to teaching.  But because my heart had already been prepared, my reaction was "Well, of course that's what we'll do." 
So 3 months later I was signing up for courses at the University of Utah to get my early childhood license and now 2 and 1/2 years after that I have finished my first year back.  So needless to say I have felt very "supported" on this journey back to teaching and having to work part time outside the home.  I don't want to sound overly sentimental or trite, but I really do feel like the Lord provided the way not only for my going back to school, but also in finding a job.  There are few part time jobs out there where one can get health insurance but I just happen to have a degree in one of them- for which Eric and I are very grateful.  Between my insurance and a copay assist program Eric's "house payment" medication is covered 100%!!!! (Although who knows what "Obama Care" may do to that benefit but again- a different post!)
But I wanted to record down some of the funny things my first year kindergarteners have said over the past year because I tell you what- 5 year olds are pretty darn funny!
*At the beginning of the year my mom came in to help on Fridays.  Then halfway through the year she stopped coming because she was getting ready to go on a mission to Vegas.  The last Friday she was there she explained to the kids why she wasn't coming anymore- because she was going on a mission.  She didn't really explain what this entailed or that it was a church service mission because one of the kid's questions was whether or not she got to carry a gun on her mission!
*I work in a very low income school where the kids speak 31 different languages.  Luckily the only languages spoken in my class this year were english and spanish and even though my spanish is limited- I took two years in high school- I can still understand and speak un poquito.  The kids LOVED it when I tried to speak spanish.  And I did get to learn some spanish swear words!  But I had one student who had much more than a language barrier going on.  He was very immature and I had a suspicion that he had some sort of developmental delay.  But there are a lot of hoops you have to jump through to get a child qualified for special education, especially when the parents are not on board or don't understand you- which was both the cases for this child.  I had to be constantly assessing these kids on the kindergarten requisite skills- one of which is counting.  I had to record how high each kid could count and this kid counted like this- "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, chicken".  Funny enough there was no "chicken" spot on the numbers recording sheet!
*I had one extremely complimentary student.  He was always telling me how pretty I looked.  Needless to say he was one of my favorites!  One day we were at recess and he told me all the girls in kindergarten he thought were pretty.  And I must say he had really good taste!;)
*Another thing I have to assess is how well the kids can read sight words.  There are 25 required words the kids should be able to read by the end of the year.  At the end of the year I was testing one particular boy and he was cruising through them- not an easy feat and one not everyone can do.  After he finished he looked up at me and said, "I'm like a machine!"  Yes he was!
*In this day and age- besides fire and earthquake drills- we also have to do lockdown drills.  Our school has protocol for both a soft and a hard lockdown and by their names you can guess that one is more intense and intrusive than the other  We were getting ready for a hard lockdown drill and I was trying to explain to the students under what circumstances we would have a hard lockdown.  This is a tricky thing to explain to 5 year olds because they are very curious and need to be given some information to keep them from getting upset, yet too much information isn't a good thing either.  So I went with this explanation- "We are doing this drill so we can be ready in case anything dangerous comes in our school."  One kid raised his hand and said, "Like if a tiger comes in our school?" Exactly!  If a tiger ever came in our school, we would for sure need to go into a hard lockdown!
*And by far this is my favorite story from the year- I was handing out papers and the students started asking me questions like "Do you have a house?" or "Do you have a bedroom?" One kid asked me if I work.  With a smile I said "Yes, I work.  In fact I'm at work right now."  One little girl's eyes got real wide and she said "You work here?!?" 
And in case you ever wonder what it is like to teach kindergarten, this video sums up very nicely what I do for 3 hours a day:


Stacey said...

Hey Kari! Loved the post, and the video... Between 2 of my kids, we've had one so-so kindergarten teacher and one that is truly called for that exact career. Knowing you, I'm sure you are one of those called to teach those little kids! I use the word "called" because we all know you are giving an amazing service that is NOT compensated according to the amount or value of your time! We'll miss you this weekend!

P4 said...

I love everything about this post and I am so glad everything has worked out. Congrats on finishing/surviving your first year back! The video is too funny and a good representation of teaching life!

The Hill Family said...

I LOVED this post. I cried at the end because I was laughing so hard. It reminded me a little of my life and left me wondering... How does she do it? All of your students and Eric and very lucky to have you!

Michael said...

I think I can guess which kid said what. I miss those little darlins'

Lori said...

Another amazing post! Love reading about your life!

Stephanie @ D. and D. said...

I'm sorry to hear about Eric, but I'm glad things worked out that you could get the perfect kind of fit for your schedule and insurance and all that. I bet kindergarten is hilarious... especially if you medicate yourself. :)

Laura said...

This is beautiful. I'm proud to be your cousin.