Monday, September 02, 2013

How I got here

I'm starting a new job tomorrow.  No, a whole new career.  They say people tend to change careers at least once during their working lifetimes, so I guess I'm average.  Always have been, always will be.  I'm good with average - because I know that it's us "C" students who run the world.

Anyway, the longer I live the more I'm convinced that our lives follow a somewhat predestined path, and that everything we do and everything that happens to us, good or bad, is just a step on that path. Looking back, there have been some very obvious steps I've taken in the past few years that have led to this career change.

When I quit working my office job as a software test engineer, I did it partly because I was torn between two wildly different aspects if my life.  On one hand, my demanding job required much more focus than just 9-5, and there was pressure to show how upwardly mobile and dedicated you were, by being available nights and weekends and by showing that the current project was the most important thing in the world for you.  Everyone had a family; I wasn't the only one.  Having kids didn't excuse you from lacing up your tennis shoes and lining up to run the rat race.

On the other hand there was our kiddos, and their recent diagnosis of Fragile X.  Learning about Fragile X and all the ways of the special needs world was kind of like learning Chinese.  Nothing looked or sounded familiar.  It was very hard to grasp, especially with my limited ability to focus on it.

So I dropped out of the rat race for a few years.

Being 100% driven toward the boys, their needs, special education, advocating, it's all taken over and changed my direction.

During the 2011/2012 school year I took the Partners in Policymaking class, and that furthered my ambition to help those who need it, and to make life better for the differently abled.

As the boys got older (not all that much more self sufficient, mind you, but older) I began to miss having a job.  I didn't know it for some time.  But when I stepped back into the working world - well, I just dipped my toes in, at first.

I decided the best thing for me to do was to get a part-time gig, serving lunch at one of the schools in our district, so i could still be home for the kids before and after school.  I applied for a couple of 2- and 3- hour positions at some elementary schools, and didn't hear anything back.  Then one day the director of Food Services, Rosalyn, called me and said she was thrilled to see me applying for their openings, and she would like me to me to apply for a specific one. It was the lunch server position at the alternative high school.  She hesitated a little before she told me it was a school full of "kids who can't attend the typical high school, for one reason or another.  They aren't like other kids."

I said I was just fine with that, because my kids weren't like other kids, either.

And honestly I was intrigued.  Just what was the big deal with these kids anyway?

It was at the alternative school that I became acquainted with some of the special education children.  In some ways they were a lot like my kids, and in some ways they weren't.  Incidentally, that's just how they compare to typical kids.

I guess the difference is that there are assumptions you can make about how the typical kids are going to react and behave that you cannot make about the special needs kids.

Anyway, if Rosalyn, the Food Services Director, hadn't asked me to apply to serve lunch at the alternative school, I wouldn't have been in a position to get to know the special education children there.  And to get to know the teachers and classroom assistants, and see their daily work challenges and joys.  They are amazing people.  Watching them with the kids, I'm just so admiring of how calm and efficient and supportive and happy they are. 

As this school year approached, I knew I needed to work full time, and I still wanted to work in a school, so I'd have the same schedule as my kids.

And though the opportunity was certainly there, I just didn't want to work full time in the cafeteria.  I loved the kids and the other lunch ladies and loved being in a school setting, but did not love cooking, cleaning, serving, or generally being in the kitchen.  In my own kitchen I must admit that the takeout menus get almost as much use as the pots and pans.  The next Rachel Ray I am not (although I do like calling sandwiches "sammies" like she does.)

So, long story short (too late), I talked to a couple of the classroom assistants I met at the alternative school and decided to apply for a position there.  And got hired.  I won't be working at the same school as last year, but I'll be in a similar program with similar kids.

I am a little nervous, not knowing just what the kids will be like - but mostly I am looking forward to beginning a new chapter.

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