“You’ve been at the same school for 13 years…why would you want to leave to teach in Abu Dhabi?”
I’ve heard this question before. Phrased differently, however.
- “Why do you want to teacher here?”
- “Why did you choose to apply for a job in this country?”
- “Why this country, at this time?”
But my interviewers phrased in such away that gave me pause…why leave after 13 years?
As I was walking into work today, I fell in step with a colleague who I really hadn’t spoken to in a long time. He teaches gym on the 1st floor and I’m on the 2nd so, we never really see each other. I asked him, “How long have you been teaching here?”
“19 years. In this building. I started here and never left.”
“Wow, me too…”
“That’s what makes this building great. The number of people who stayed.”
I think I teared up. Fortunately we reached the time clock, moved our cards and I hurried off to my room after mumbling “Have a great day!” I glanced twice as I hurried past the room of a teacher who just retired in December after 50 years! He’d been there when the school opened! My two buddies who I got my Master’s Degree with at Queens College – still here. Am I looking at this all wrong? The building is by no means perfect, but the staff, at this point, is full of very talented teachers. It’s seen a few crazies, but it seems like this year we might have only one (out of 170 or so). And I’ve already mentioned how great my students are! Am I crazy to leave? Am I crazy to stay?
Waiting for a decision really gets your mind running in a thousand different directions. Stay? Go? Transfer? Childcare leave of absence? Sabbatical? Change professions? Become a trainer? Get a PhD? Get an extension license? Try teaching a different grade? Stay in the US but go to VA or NC or FL? Become a professor?
So I figured what has me willing to leave. Aside from not owning a house nor any means of buying one, I don’t have the quality of life for my family that I think they deserve. Great neighborhood lined with picket fences, but awful schools. Work hours and commutes that are so long that we can’t eat dinner together as a family or enjoy an evening stroll afterwards. The kids can’t play outside on their own because stray bullets plague the area. Watching the Suzie Orman show and wondering how people get $375,000 in retirement funds, and $75,000 in liquid assets.
Maybe this opportunity is what my grandfather sought when he uprooted his family from Ecuador and came to Queens, New York. He sought a better quality of life for his family, which consisted at the time of a wife with two sons from a previous marriage and four of his own children. Party of 8 in a one-bedroom apartment in Jackson Heights! Despite a language barrier and limited job options for foreigners, he and my grandmother worked their way into owning a home and supporting the kids, grandchildren, great grandchildren…His yellow house in Woodside, Queens, became a haven for us all at some point in time. He was so proud of his home, his garden, his little piece of paradise in the concrete jungle. He made the leap and ensured a better future for us all.
So, I’m searching for the new “New York.” A place where we can have a life outside of work. I don’t know that we will find it overseas. But I’m willing to step out of shadow of skyscrapers in order to feel the sun.