Today I Teach

Yesterday I was feeling kind of…blah. Illusory, yes. I felt empty at my job, like most of what I did there was of no consequence. I was tired and wanted to do nothing. I did very little, even though there were piles of things sitting on my desk, exciting things like exit exams, writing goals, and researching Intensive English Programs.

Last year, I had an inkling to change jobs, and I almost did. I have no regrets about still being her in Iowa with Bryon. (Just to comment on how that sounds, we’re still very much together. We would have had a long distance relationship for about 3 years, had I started a job in Ft. Lauderdale). Yes, Iowa is ridiculously hot and obnoxious in September, and we like it that way! My gut, though, told me it was time to do something new.

Let’s be honest. I haven’t the security to quit my day job and write. I think we could make it on Bryon’s income, although now that we have begun earnest home repair, I’d have to add a part time gig on. BUT I feel like I want to work. I have this fear of being poor. When I grew up, my family was desolately poor. I lived in a room that had a hole in the roof. When it rained, I moved my bed and put down a bucket. Our house was a rodent-laden den of dirty dishes and little plumbing. I will not continue to paint a picture, but I will say that I learned early on that I had to provide my own way in life, and yes, even though I know I would never allow myself to live like that, even poor, the irrational part of my brain says that I need to be earning some cash. I was willing to go through college to earn more cash, and a full time writing job with persistence might be seen as an investment, but no, there are many reasons that many of us still work.

And there’s teaching. The way I feel today about my job is diametrically opposite than yesterday. Today I taught for three hours. I did a two-hour class on modals of obligation and certainty. I know, you’re on the edge of your seat just thinking about it! But I owned that room and pulled those students in. Yes, I was really tired at the end, the adrenaline-shaking performance high that awaits at the end of a good day of teaching. But coolest of all? I walked past a group of my students. They asked me how I was doing. I said, “Man, I’m tired!” And one of them said, “Yes, but that was a brilliant lecture.”

ELA students exercising new vocabulary. Brilliant. Oh yeah.


I dunno. Sometimes, at 50, as I begin to hear the clock ticking,I wonder if I should have taken a different course. But if I had been a full-time writer, I’d probably be whining about how I didn’t get to perform, or how I didn’t make any money. When the time comes to leave teaching, I do plan to write as much as I can. It is my hope in retirement I can afford to write full-time, or work minimally at something to supplement my income if royalties are not flying into my bank account. But right now, I am privileged to having spent my life with all the men and women who have passed through my classroom on their way to their American dream.

Today was a great day. Regardless of what’s done or undone, what I have done, or will do, I love my life, and I feel like myself.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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