The Jobs Report: I’m A Fifth-Grade Teacher
12:30 pm, October 26th | by Sarah Devlin
This is the first installment in an ongoing series we’re calling The Jobs Report. In light of depressing statistics about unemployment, especially for recent college graduates, the task of finding a job you love — or finding a job at all — can seem insurmountable. We want to challenge those numbers and offer an antidote to the depressing data, so we’re asking women we know who have found jobs they love to share how they got their gigs and what challenges and rewards them about their careers.
Kelley Blakslee is a fifth grade teacher living in Phoenix, Arizona.
1. When and how did you decide you wanted to be a teacher?
Hm, I actually can’t remember the time or moment I decided to go into education, it was just always what I knew I wanted to do. Now I have a closet full of khakis and smelly black flats, so there’s no going back.
2. How did you get the job you have now?
A month or two before graduation and the completion of my student teaching, I applied to what seemed like every district in the [Phoenix area] and even a school on a reservation in New Mexico. (They promised four day weeks and one hour a day of fishing, hiking, or other outdoorsy activities so I was obviously sold!) It was at a time when many school districts were laying off teachers and certainly not hiring new ones right out of school, so I was in no position to turn down any opportunity that may have come along. Luckily, a few weeks before I was set to graduate, I got a few calls from a few different schools in the Glendale district [in a suburb of Phoenix]. I ended up interviewing with each of them and really clicked with one of the principals and could see myself starting my career at that school. So I stopped asking friends for fishing poles and hiking gear and prepared for my first year (if you can really prepare) of teaching sixth grade [I now teach fifth grade at the same school].
3. What’s something challenging about teaching that you didn’t about before having this job?
Ugh, so many things! It’s both the most exhausting and rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I think the most challenging thing is balancing my work life and home life. Sometimes I feel like I’m never not “Ms. Blakslee,” and that I’m the robot who lives at school and plugs herself into the wall like the kids seem to think. It’s not like that so much anymore, thankfully, but in my first year of teaching I was not efficient with my time. I’d stay at school way way too late and not really get as much done as I wanted to, then I’d come home and keep working. Then I’d have school dreams all night and wake up at 5 A.M. to do it all over again. It was so draining and I found myself not wanting to do much with the little free time I had on the weekends.
Now, I’m able to balance my life a bit more, but I still feel like I have three full time jobs sometimes. This week, for example, I’ve put in three 12 hour work days in order to meet with all of my students’ parents for conferences. Most days, though, I’m home by 5 P.M. — being in my third year of teaching, I’ve learned to use my time more effectively and prioritize what has to be done now and what can wait. As a result, I (sort of) have a social life again!
4. What’s something great about teaching that you didn’t know about before having this job?
I think I always knew how rewarding the job was because of student teaching and interning experiences, but before I had my own class of students, I didn’t fully appreciate those little “A-ha!” moments from kids. It’s pretty cool that I get paid to work with a group of little humans who amaze me every day. Working in a Title I school, where most students come from low-income families, I see and hear some heartbreaking stories. It is incredible what they are capable of and what they achieve each day despite the things they can’t control and bring into the classroom. I love being a positive role model for them, helping them to realize their potential, and guiding them to become productive citizens even if their families didn’t have or take advantage of the same opportunities. There is always at least one moment in my day — a handwritten note, an off-beat comment, or a class of students singing our “Song of the Week” together — that reminds me the long hours are worth it.
Do you know a lady who has a cool job that she loves? Are you that lady? Nominate yourself or someone else to be featured in The Jobs Report at email@example.com.