Quitter to Winner

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Interview: Nicole hasn't quit her job - yet

Nicole Graziano left a steady yet unfulfilling job to pursue a teaching career. After many years of school and sacrifice she landed what she thought was an ideal job. She soon realized it was anything but. Nicole is still employed as a special education teacher. However she's reached the "think-out-loud" stage about why and how to make a another move.

Nicole, you mentioned that you've grown to dislike your job, and possibly your career choice. What is it you're doing? What don't you like about it?

I teach special education in an inner city to middle school students. Most read at a kindergarten to second grade level. I find the majority of the students to be rude and disrespectful. Many parents are irresponsible and uninvolved. My frustration comes from the struggle of working extremely hard (usually 3 hours per night after the school day is done) with little reward for my work.

Why do you stay?

Now for practical reasons. I need a steady income to pay my mortgage. Prior to owning, I stayed because I wanted to reach my goal of owning my own home. I didn't want to prolong or jeopardize that. I do have a savings, but I hate the idea of having to touch it.

Fortunately there are other gigs out there that can pay the bills - even in a down economy. Is there a chance things can improve?

I do think that in time I will be able to find myself a better teaching position.

A lot of people find it more difficult to reinvent themselves than to stay in a job they hate. Are you in that head space right now?

It’s funny. I had always wanted to teach. I worked in logistics and distribution before moving from New Jersey to western Massachusetts about five years ago. That was my reinvention right there. I made my way through school and earned my teaching license. Little did I know how difficult it would be to find a position outside the realm of the inner city. I still remember my first few days of teaching in the city. It was unlike anything I had ever seen in school growing up. My expectations were way off. I’ve toughened up quite a bit, but that still doesn’t mean that I like it.

Have you thought about ways you can get out?

Last fall, I went through a really hard time. I landed what I thought was a perfect teaching job. Little did I know the amount of work that would go into it. I grew frustrated quickly about spending my days and nights working. I tried to think of ways out, but five years out of the logistics field doesn’t exactly make you a desirable candidate for a job. Temping and substitute teaching weren't great options. I would have nightmares about my house falling into foreclosure. I stuck it out and finished out the year thanks to an extremely supportive staff and principal and some really great kids who I didn’t want to let down.

Do you feel you'd be happier if you left with or without another job? Or would you regret it down the road if something else didn't come through right away?

I would only leave with another job to go to. Aside from finances, I know that I’d come down on myself for quitting. I worked hard to get the teaching license and would hate to see it go to waste.

Do you have a revised career goal?

I would love to do anything involving animal rescue. My dream is to open a farm animal sanctuary. I suppose I’d also like to teach, but only under the right circumstances. I’m drained at night, even on the occasion that I don’t have extra work to do. The job just isn't for me.

What was it about your current career that interested you? What was it that changed your tune about your original choices?

I used to get frustrated that my logistics job didn’t have anything to do with who I was and that it was of little value. I wanted to do something that produced real results. I realize now that teaching produces very little of that feeling for me. When the kids and parents care very little, it leaves the teacher with nothing. I guess those inner city teacher films are somewhat accurate somewhere, but I haven’t seen it. My students don’t even bring pencils to school. It’s really maddening. I’m not about to take a “they don’t care, so why should I?” attitude. It’s not in my makeup although sometimes I wish it was.

Luckily, I have a lot of people at work I can talk to. Let’s just say that I’m not the only teacher who is frustrated. My aid is a godsend. I couldn’t do the job and stay sane without her.

Have you been in other situations where you felt you would never resolve an issue, yet you did? Can you transfer any bits of knowledge onto this situation?

Getting myself out of the funk I was in last fall is proof that I can do anything. Funny though, I’m still way too scared to leave. I just approach it differently now. I‘m not out to be a superstar teacher. I just do my best and try to preserve myself in the process.

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