“Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring…”
Will I go back to Alaska?
Amidst a generous amount of reflection and uncertainty, I decided last week to sign and turn in my contract, thus committing to one more year teaching in Tunt. Many factors weighed into the decision, but let me first say that while I have decided to come back for a third year, the next school year will be my last teaching in rural Alaska. This endless and recurring cycle of ‘indecision-making’ every year is not something I want to keep revisiting again and again. For that reason, I have decided to make a commitment to an ‘exit strategy’ that I hope people here will respect and understand, that will allow me to plan ahead for what’s next, and result in what I hope will make the eventual departure easiest on me emotionally. Strangely enough, this plan was originally inspired by Derek Jeter’s announcement that he will retire at the end of next season. It started as a silly idea, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense (to me at least). I (in my admittedly self-aggrandizing way) imagine that by letting my friends and students here know that next year is my final year, it will make it easier on me and those who wish that I would make Tunt my home for the long-term. Instead of dropping the news abruptly next March, I am letting everyone know now that I’ll be walking away from this job (and the alternate reality, essentially). I hope this allows me to savor my final time here and to ease my way out.
So why did I decide to come back for another year? Besides the obvious influence of friendships I have formed, one reason is because I simply have no idea what I would do if I were to come back to Ohio. I am fairly certain that I will never commit to teaching as my career until I have experienced other potential career paths, or perhaps not at all. Though there are many incentives to teaching, I question my ability as a teacher, and whether or not another unforeseen option would be a better fit. With not knowing what to do next, coming back for one more year gives me the stability of a good job, while giving me time to plan my next steps. Not to mention that one more year will put me in a good financial position in that I will be debt free, opening up even more options (like pursuing another degree if I want).
Other reasons I decided to come back are more specific and job-related. One of my friends (Eli) who currently teaches in another village in the district put in for a transfer request and is taking a vacant position at our school next year. This is a friend that I’ve been on trips to Anchorage with several times, and who visited Ohio this previous summer. He will be an excellent addition to our staff, though at the same time I am sad to see my colleague he is replacing go. But adding a friend like Eli to the staff here is huge because the staff is so small. It’s exciting to think he will be here next year. He Patrick and I will potentially live together in one of the 3 bedroom homes that are here, thus adding to the dynamic of my home life (and reducing my rent). An additional factor for next school year is that my principal has decided to resign his position. While you never know what is going to come next, it’s exciting for the school to get a fresh start with new leadership. Along with these positive factors, I also have the incentive to come back to see a solid group of kids graduate. A few of the kids that will be seniors next year are some that I am pretty close with. I like the idea of seeing them through their last year, and coaching my 4 seniors in basketball. Coaching basketball continues to a positive force for me out here, allowing me to keep my sanity and stay entertained. I have really come to love coaching and think it’s something I would like to pursue even after I leave here.
While I know my decision is heavily influenced by my daily reality and it might seem easier to simply decide to stay on the same path, I genuinely believe that this decision is the best one for me. I imagined coming back home without a plan, falling into some substitute teaching work as a final option, and regretting not signing up for another year. One more year will allow me to position myself in a better way for what comes next rather than if I blindly come back and pursue…pursue…who knows what. I have yet to feel regret with the major decisions I have made related to this job (Hah…‘Job’. Simply calling what I am doing a job seems like a gross misrepresentation). Hopefully the lack of regret will be a continuing trend; and in regard to this decision I am confident it will. These past two years have been filled with incredible experiences, both good and bad, unnerving and uplifting; knowing there are more lows to come no longer worries me; I have sung that song before, and I found my way back. It’s the unsung song that now lingers.
And “The powerful play goes on.”
But what is the next verse?