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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

After 10+ years, I quit teaching

In the summer of 2017, I quit my job as an elementary music teacher.  I started singing in choirs in fourth grade.  I taught music for 10.5 years.  More, if you include subbing and directing musicals.  I was a great elementary school music teacher and choir director.  I have bachelor's and master's degrees from UofM in music education.  I have three Grammy awards from my undergrad days.  I've been a paid performer many times.  I've sung under world famous conductors.  I conducted original music ed. research and wrote a thesis.  I published a portion of that thesis in a peer reviewed journal.  I presented my findings at a state conference.  Shit, I was even recruited to move back to Louisiana as part of LSU's doctoral program in music education (we didn't go).  At no point can I tell you I was honestly proud of any of that with the exception of defending my thesis and publishing.  I was happy when I'd win a competition or a solo, or make a state choir, and singing and performing was absolutely fun.  But, in hindsight, when I compare all of it to the pride I feel regularly related to running, I wasn't proud of those accomplishments.  I think this is largely because singing and music were never hard for me.  To be honest, I hardly ever practiced.  I certainly worked hard at school, but I wouldn't say it was difficult.  Not like researching and writing and publishing, and not like running.  I was proud of many of the relationships I formed with my students, loved many of them as if they were my own children, and was proud to be a positive adult figure in their lives, but, for me, it had nothing to do with my role as their music teacher.  When someone asked me what I "did," (I can't tell you how much that question irritates me) I didn't feel a sense of pride when I responded.  I actually felt a little dread, not wanting to play the part, once again, in the typical conversations about education and teaching and music.  Teaching was hard in that it was a lot of work, but not the kind of work I ever felt great about doing.  Curriculum maps and accreditation committees and getting yelled at by ignorant parents and increasing numbers of students whose behavior indicated they didn't respect their teachers further than they could throw us doesn't make you feel great about your measley salary compared to the hours you're working and qualifications.  This is a whole other conversation and not the point of this post.  Additionally, more and more, I didn't feel that great feeling you get when you share something important with someone.  Again, I loved many of my students and I was happy they were happy because of music, but that's where it ended.  When a runner thanks me for helping them dial in their nutrition, or get them to a starting line feeling confident, or knock time off their PR, I feel proud.  Proud that I helped them feel a little more like a runner and hopeful they'll grow in their love of our sport.  And if you're reading this, I imagine you already know how proud I am of my own running accomplishments, because RUNNING IS HARD, and I work my ass off to be even a little good at it.  I don't know if I've put in my 10,000 hours yet as a runner and coach, but I certainly plan to.  I hated practicing for voice lessons.  Those 10,000 hours would have killed me.  By comparison, my brother and sister in law perform in a professional reed quintet and practice several hours a day.  To quote Kari when asking how I have time to run so much, "But when do you practice clarinet?"  When it comes to running and coaching, I want to read everything, listen to every podcast, attend classes, work towards more certifications, talk to other runners and coaches, and run all the workouts and races!

There have been several times since I graduated college that I thought it would be fun to work in fitness.  But leaving a career in which I'd invested so much time and money seemed insane and scary. By the end of the 16-17 school year, not leaving seemed more insane and scary.  But I still wasn't sure what I wanted to do.  I've worked since I was 16.  I started looking for full time admin jobs, but only had one interview out of who knows how many applications.  I subbed, but I really just don't like teaching.  And it finally hit me that I need to pursue coaching more actively.  I've been coaching a few runners here and there, but I've never put myself out there before.  Once I started working on this, everything clicked.  I can't ever think of a time in my life I've felt so creative.  Creating my website, articulating my philosophy, choosing a name, talking to other coaches, designing a logo...I've been so excited working on this in a way I've never felt excited about other projects.  I've wanted to draw and write and create.  I started working with a new runner and, as usual, the process of learning her goals and creating her program from scratch is fun and exciting and gives me joy.  And then, a week or so into the process, I was volunteering at packet pickup at our local running store, RUNdetroit.  One of their staff was about to go on maternity leave, and it had occurred to me to offer to help out while she was gone.  Turns out they had also been planning to ask me if I was interested!  So now, when someone asks me what I "do," I tell them I work at a specialty running store and coach.  And that makes me proud.  And I look forward to working with more runners and sharing my knowledge and passion for our sport.  I look forward to learning more every day as a runner and coach myself.  It's scary putting this out there; as another coach and friend said, we're our own worst critics, always questioning whether we're good enough.  But I love what I'm doing enough to take the leap and say, "I'm a running coach."  And that gives me joy.