The Straw.

Cranky Blogger Warning:  I’m exhausted, y’all.  And sad.  That means this post is probably more emotion than it is logic.  I won’t apologize for that — it is a part of who I am — but it also means that I might just feel differently about all of this tomorrow.  

Hope you’ll understand.


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Simple Radical Truth:  Staying in the classroom full-time has ALWAYS been my only professional goal.  I love the #edtech and #atplc consulting work that I do, but the fact that I still work with kids all day, every day is what I’m proudest of.  More importantly, it’s what I enjoy the most.

But after the past few days, I’m not sure that I’ll be a full-time classroom teacher for long.

You see, my four-year old daughter — who I love more than life — went to her first gymnastics class on Tuesday and I missed it because I was working one of the three part time jobs that I work in order to make ends meet around our house.  Rumor has it that she LOVED the entire experience.  She walked on balance beams and jumped on trampolines and wore a harness as she flew and flipped her way around a local gym.

“I’ve never seen her so happy!” my wife said.

Neither have I.  

Things got worse when I got home.  “Do you think we could sign Reece up for gymnastics classes?” my wife asked.  “They’re $67 dollars a month.”  She knew my answer before I had the chance to speak.  We don’t have $67 extra dollars a month for gymnastics classes no matter how happy they would make my daughter — and finding another $67 dollars a month would mean spending even more of my nights and weekends away from home shaking the money tree.

Then my best friend called.  “Hey Bill: We’re going camping this weekend and thought you guys might want to come with us.  We’ll have a campfire and cook Smores with the kids.  Whaddya’ think?  We know Reece has been asking about going camping all summer.  It’ll be fun!”

Should be an easy answer, shouldn’t it?  Any GOOD dad would jump at the chance to take his daughter camping for the first time with friends and family on an early fall weekend, right?

Here’s the hitch:  I have a GOOD 20 hours of part time work that needs to get done this weekend.  Going camping will put me WAY behind.  Might even mean that I miss a deadline or two — or that I do a poor job at the 5 different workshops I’m delivering in the next three weeks.

Do you have any idea how broken I am right now?

I feel like a complete failure as a father.  I can’t afford the classes that my daughter wants to take and I can’t find the time to take her camping.  Instead, I’ll spend my weekend like I spend damn near every night of my life: Sitting in a McDonalds writing blog entries, preparing for presentations, and praying that I find potential contacts with contracts in a Hail Mary attempt to cobble together a semblance of a living.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m NOT looking for sympathy.  This isn’t meant to be a woe-is-me, the sky-is-falling-and-it’s-not-my-fault kind of post.

I know full well how lucky I am to have a solid full-time job doing something that I love.  That’s more than many people can say in the crappy economy that we’ve all lived through for the better part of a decade.  Heck, until the State of North Carolina goes broke, I even have a pension.  Just as importantly, I’m proud of what I do for a living because I know it matters.  I’ve made a difference — and that is worth more than most paychecks.

And for long while, I was more than willing to ignore the fact that I was making less than the majority of my friends and family members.  I didn’t need to go on vacations or drive new cars in order to be happy — and the 1,028 square foot house that I live in on the on a .08 acre lot that I own was more than enough for me.  I was even perfectly satisfied with the fact that my wife and I are still using the Sears press-board dresser that my mom and dad bought me when I was 12 to store our grown-up clothes in.

But a simple fact rumbled right into the middle of my life this week:  My decision to ignore opportunities to move into higher-paying positions beyond the classroom out of a noble commitment to teaching aren’t just hurting ME anymore.  They’re hurting my daughter and my wife — and I’m not sure I’m willing to let that happen for much longer.



Related Radical Reads:

Here’s How Being a Father is Changing Me as a Teacher

Saying Goodbye to Maria

A Profession that Doesn’t Give Back



8 thoughts on “The Straw.

  1. Philip Cummings

    Hey, Bill. I’m behind in my reading and writing so I’m just getting to this post. This breaks my heart, but I totally get it. I had to make some tough decisions when Debbie and I married, and I still haven’t ruled out leaving the classroom someday. For all the talk of a commitment to educating kids, it hasn’t resulted in improving teacher salaries across the board–and that’s wrong. Take care of your wife and daughter–that’s important to us men as husbands and fathers, but I also advise that you find a happy medium where you also get to do work that you love–work that matters.

    You inspire me, Bill. You are a great teacher and a much-valued friend. Let me know if I can ever be of help.

  2. edifiedlistener

    Hi Bill,
    I’ve been a twitter follower of yours since this summer and in such a short time you have had such a positive impact on my own choices as an educator. I regret that you find yourself faced with what appear sour options for continuing to do what you love. I agree with what others have said above: I, too, am confident that your passion for and commitment to kids will shine through in whatever role you take on. A recent post on my blog raises some questions about our need for open space and one question I raise in particular seems relevant here: “What do I need to move away from in order to get closer to what I want?”
    May not make much sense out of context but in case it may be of help, here’s the link:
    Wishing you all the best and thanks so much for your trememdous positive output,
    Sherri Spelic

  3. Jennifer

    A few thoughts.

    1. It sucks that as educators, we have to choose between what we love to do and providing for our family. There’s no other way to put it. It just sucks. But…
    2. Being a devoted dad is also noble and good. Plus, of all your jobs, it’s the most important one. AND…
    3. I have a strong suspicion that you will continue to make a difference in the lives of students through whatever adventure you choose to take on next. Whatever path you choose, you will always be a teacher.

    Chin up, friend.

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Thanks, Jennifer.

      Your comment made my morning.

      And as sad as it is to me, I’m really leaning towards leaving the classroom right now. Not sure how things will end up, but I do know that I want to spend more time with my girl. More importantly, I want her to have all of the things that the students in my classroom have.

      Hope to cross paths in person sooner rather than later…

  4. twhitford

    Bill, I totally get where you are coming from. I love that you’re willing to share your personal thoughts & experiences as well as sharing your professional life. Truth is, in education, they tend to be one in the same. Our passion & drive is fueled by both.

    I decided to leave the classroom so that I could effect greater change and impact more students. I can’t lie, I also moved into administration so I could provide my family with more and so I could stop working a 2nd job. Honestly, I don’t know that it freed up that much more time. The commitment to lead is huge….. But it’s also worth it. Now my wife is a principal also. We both enjoy the challenge and the joys of leading, but it means less time with our own kids & even more time running crazily around when we are with them. Still not sure the balance is right…..but we’re working on it.

    Keep your chin up. The world will only be at a loss if you leave education all together. You would be an Amazing Building Leader!!

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      You know, Tom: I think I know that being a building leader wouldn’t free up any extra time — for guys like us who want to do the best at what we do, there will always be too much to do.

      But at least I wouldn’t have to worry about finding second and third jobs all the time. Having one job would be a relief, I think.

      Appreciate your kind words,

  5. Diana Williams

    My heart breaks for you, Bill. No one should have to choose between doing work that matters, that you are passionate about and your home life-work that matters and that you are passionate about. Some advice that I was given when I became a mom and was trying to balance work and home-your children only have one mom. (dad). You have to be that for them because nobody else can. My own kids win the decision every time, even though it hurts my heart to have to choose.

    Focus on the positive impact you could make in another (higher paying) position. Teaching will still be there for you to come back to when the time is right.

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Thanks for the kind words, Pal. All too often, my own kid loses when decisions have to be made — and that’s why I’m not sure teaching is right for me any longer. The only way my kid wins is if I find a position that pays me more money.

      It sucks, but it is what it is, right?

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