It’s hard for me to convey how excited I am to be starting at my new job today. I actually find it a bit amusing because a good number of the wonderful blogs I follow are written by people who are trying to escape from regular jobs—and yet here I am, super psyched to be starting one. I suppose if I had spent the past twelve years since college working at regular jobs, then I might be trying to get away from them too, but the reality is that I’m jumping out of my seat with excitement that somebody wants to hire me and pay me to work at their organization.
There are a bunch of practical reasons why I’m excited about this job:
- As I mentioned, it’s a regular job. And by a “regular job” I mean a job that is not an offshoot of being a grad student. Grad student jobs are definitely jobs, and they are definitely demanding, but they can sometimes cause one to feel like a perpetual trainee rather than a competent professional.
- I’ll get to meet new people: co-workers, clients, etc.
- I’ll get to learn new things, be challenged, improve my skills, etc.
- I’ll be getting a fair amount of exercise at work, and will get to step outdoors multiple times per day. I’m purposely keeping the details of the job a little vague here, but it’s a multi-site clinical job, and I’ll travel between sites by some combination of biking, walking, and public transportation.
- And of course, once I start getting paychecks, I will finally be able to make consistent progress towards paying off my student loans.
There’s one more reason why this job is appealing to me, but this one is a little harder to explain, so I’ll give some background.
~Flashback to 2003~
Immediately after graduating from college, I moved to New York City to be a public school teacher. I had never studied education, but I’d been accepted into the New York City Teaching Fellows, a “fast track” to teaching that substitutes a summer crash-course for an actual degree in education (NYCTF is roughly similar to Teach For America, if you’re familiar with that program; the main difference is that NYCTF is specific to NYC).
Part of the reason I applied to NYCTF was because I really wanted to make a difference. Now, making a difference is a pretty vague goal. I was unsure of exactly what kind of difference I wanted to make, or how I could make it, but I thought that teaching in a high-needs public school in New York City seemed like a good bet. Again, I had no teaching experience or expertise, but that was the whole point of NYCTF: to put idealistic people with no teaching background in struggling schools, in the hope that they could have a positive impact.
So I moved to New York and, after my summer crash course in education, started teaching Literacy (i.e. English/Language Arts) at a public middle school in the Bronx. Each morning I got up at 4:45, got on a train and then a bus, and arrived in my classroom by 7:00 to prep for the day. I taught and prepped till 2:30 when school let out, stayed afterwards to prep some more, and took the bus and the train home so I could sit on my bed and continue prepping until I eventually fell asleep.
There’s a lot to say about that year, and perhaps I’ll write more about it someday. But the takeaway, for the purposes of this post, is that despite my very best intentions and efforts, I didn’t really know how to do the job I was doing. Sure, I knew the subject matter that I was teaching, but I did not know how to keep students quiet and in their seats, much less effectively organize a classroom or adhere to educational standards. It probably didn’t help that I was 22 years old and looked about 16. We were rarely able to get through an entire lesson, and on more days than not, I had to call the assistant principal in to help get the class under control.
I don’t want to paint it as though the whole year was a fail, because it wasn’t. I remember our poetry unit, during which a number of the students wrote beautiful poems that they were truly proud of and bound them into construction paper books. There were occasional days when everyone sat in their seats and did their work. There were a few students with whom I connected really well. But at the end of the year, the principal told me I wouldn’t be returning—and I can’t say that I blame her.
~end of flashback~
And now, twelve years later, here I am, starting a job in a clinical field—i.e., another profession where one of the goals is to make a difference.
But this time I actually kind of know what I’m doing! I still have a ton to learn, and I’m sure there will be bumps along the way…but I have a master’s degree in my new field, I’ve completed many hours of relevant internships, and I have a ton of resources at my disposal. I can’t go back to 2003 and be a more effective teacher, but I can do my very best in this new situation. And so I feel like, in some small way, I’ve come full circle, except maybe, just maybe, my intentions and efforts will make a little more of a difference this time than they did before.
(Side note: I believe that pretty much any job presents opportunities to make a difference and have a positive impact on other people’s lives. It’s just that the potential impact is somewhat more clear-cut in some jobs than in others.)
And finally, here’s my February update.
- I spent a ton of money in February, mostly because I made a bunch of health-related purchases that I’d been putting off for years, including new glasses and a Sonicare toothbrush. I also switched my phone service onto my brother and his fiancée’s family plan, which will save me a ton of money in the long run but required a larger payment up front. And I bought a few items of clothing for work.
- I put $1406.78 towards my loans during February (about half of this was my tax refund; the rest was savings). Wahoo! I also made a snazzy debt payoff pie chart that you can see on the sidebar of this page.
- Due to the purchases and the debt payments, my savings are dwindling. It’s not that bad—I still have some money left—but I’m glad I’ll be getting paid soon. I also shouldn’t really be buying anything except groceries and shampoo for quite a while.
- And last but not least: I know I said last week that I didn’t have a lot of useful tips, but I just wrote a guest post for the blog “From Frugal to Free” on one of the very few areas where I do actually have specialized knowledge and tips. Check it out!
Anyone else done one of those fast track to teaching programs or want to comment on them? There’s a lot to say.