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Yesterday, I said goodbye to my fourteenth group of seniors here at LHS. It’s always bittersweet to wish a class farewell. The students are a bundle of emotions: excited, nervous, fearful of embracing change. And we, their teachers, are sorry to see them go, but hopeful for the futures that await them. This year, however, was even more emotional for me. Because this year was my last group of seniors at LHS.
After six years of suffering a long commute, I finally made the decision to begin looking for a position closer to home. Sort of. I determined to be choosy about where I would apply. I love my job, and I certainly wouldn’t compromise my ideal classroom just to have a shorter drive. So I sent out a total of three resumes, and assumed I wouldn’t really have to make that life-altering decision.
But sometimes it seems a greater power takes charge. I was invited to interview at two of my three choices. I knew the first one was not the right fit and it was easy to settle back into the ordinary routine. But the second one was different. I fell in love with the campus. The students felt like “my” students. Conversations with the faculty and staff flowed easily (definitely a plus for an introvert such as myself!). This felt right. So when they offered me the position, I found myself standing before two roads diverged in a yellow wood (Take the English teacher’s advice and click the link to read Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” if you’re unfamiliar with the reference).
Like my seniors, I was excited by the prospects that might await me, but terrified to face the unknown. Years spent in the same place leads to a sense of complacency. It may not always be perfect where you are, but it’s comfortable. The hardships are familiar, and therefore easier to contend with. But not embracing change and giving in to fear makes you a prisoner of your own mind.
Five Tips for Making Big Decisions
1. Make a list of pros and cons…and then consider their importance
The first thing I did after being offered the position was to sit down and make a list of all of the pros and cons. My list was actually pretty even on both sides. But I didn’t stop with just the list. I gave a rank to each item. Items of less importance received a one, the most important received a five. When it was all said and done, my pros list outweighed the cons. Nearly all the reasons to turn down the new position were purely sentimental.
2. Don’t allow yourself to be ruled by your emotions
When I sat down and looked at my list, I realized that I couldn’t allow my emotions to blind me to the advantages that might await me. Sure, I love my coworkers, I adore my students, and I feel a sense of loyalty to the community I have been a part of for well over a decade. But a shorter commute would mean more time for my family, more time supporting my students, and less stress overall. And there’s little doubt that I will eventually grow just as fond of my new position.
3. Always work towards reducing stress
Your happiness is greatly tied to your stress levels. It can even wear on your overall health, as discussed in this article from the American Psychological Association. If you can choose a path that will help alleviate the stress in your life, than you should take it.
4. Be open to the signs
I choose to pray about major life decisions. I feel confident that my dad, who passed away eight years ago, sends me occasional signs to guide me towards the correct path. Even if you aren’t one to pray, the universe has a way of sending you signals. Be open to those signs, and follow the path they direct you towards.
5. Listen to your instincts
When it was all said and done, I listened to my gut. Would I be sad to leave LHS and the people that I have grown so close to? Absolutely. Was it heart-wrenching to break the news to my students? Utterly. But once I made up my mind to accept the position, it just felt right. I am certain I will be happy there, and that my quality of life will improve thanks to the time gained and the stress of travel relieved.
Just as my seniors are bravely saying goodbye to their childhoods and embracing their journey towards adulthood, I, too, am embracing the change before me. I am excited to embark on this new journey; to share my passion for teaching with a new group of students and a different school. The students of LHS inspired me every day to become a better teacher, and if I am successful in my new position, it is in no small part because of them.