Three Signs That Returning To Teaching Is the Right Thing to Do

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’ve been struggling with the “What should I do with the rest of my life?” decision for months. (If you haven’t and you don’t, read “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” and “Orange Is the New Green: The Night I Knew I Needed to Step Away From Teaching” to catch up.)

In terms of decision-making, I’m what psychologists call a “maximizer,” someone who exhaustively examines all possible choices in a matter, often spending an unreasonable amount of effort and time doing so, to find an optimal solution.

In the other camp are “satisficers,” (“satisfy” + “suffice”) those who act on a decision when they determine that an option is “good enough” based on the criteria they’ve set. Satisficers look for an adequate solution.

On her blog, Gretchen Rubin elaborates on the difference between the two:

Satisficers make a decision once their criteria are met; when they find the hotel or the pasta sauce that has the qualities they want, they’re satisfied. Maximizers want to make the best possible decision; even if they see a bicycle that meets their requirements, they can’t make a decision until they’ve examined every option.

In a fascinating book, The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz argues that satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. Maximizers must spend a lot more time and energy to reach a decision, and they’re often anxious about whether they are, in fact, making the best choice.

So you can imagine my relief when one day last week, in the course of just a few hours, help in the decision-making process presented itself to me in the form of three signs that returning to teaching is the right thing to do:

  1. This cartoon from the February 1, 2016 issue of The New Yorker on my Facebook news feed:
“If you could be in any cubicle, which one would it be?”

Look at them. They’re all SITTING. Presumably all day, in a space the size of a smart car cabin.

“Happiest when in motion”: It says so right there on my “About” page. I love to move. I NEED to move. I’m simply not cut out for long spells of resting on my can. And research shows that the less I move, the higher my risks for certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and even anxiety and depression. A cubicle is really just a coffin with WiFi and office supplies. 

Being in a classroom REQUIRES a teacher to be in a constant state of motion not only to (attempt to) support every child but to (attempt to) be everywhere to discourage all manner of pre-teen impropriety. 

  1. This blog post sent to me by a friend: 5 Reasons Teaching Middle School Is the Worst (And 5 Reasons It’s the Absolute Best).why-teaching-middle-school-is-the-best-(and-the-worst)

It’s all true. Every word. A year ago, I would have derided the “reasons teaching middle school is the worst” with snorts of exasperation and intolerance. Today I can laugh and appreciate them—even miss them a little.

And the “reasons teaching middle school is the best”? I would’ve dismissed that part as drivel and guff. After nearly a year away from the frisky little devils, though, I can add one more reason:

  • You get to feel that flutter in your heart cradled by a sense of real purpose when students say thank you…
  1. The promise of a book dedication

While I was sorting paperwork in my home office for our meeting with the tax preparer that day, I found stuck between my “Current Year Tax Docs” and “Mortgage Statements” folders this card from a former student:


Paige was kind of an outlier. And you know what’s cool? The card was an outlier, too; I keep the notes, cards, letters, and drawings that students, parents, and administrators have given me throughout my career in a folder labeled “Feel Good.” Somehow separated from its kin, Paige’s card never made it to the “Feel Good” folder; instead, it appeared to me as the third of three signs I needed.

Her expression of thanks reminded me that I can self-flagellate till I’m raw about whether I’m demonstrating “best practices” through my lessons, feedback, and assessments, but the only practice that truly matters is showing you give a hoot.

“Hoot, hoot.”

Photo credit: Tom Kogutus/USFWS





10 Comments Add yours

  1. DeLise McCoy says:

    So happy to hear you are thinking of returning to teaching. I had a cubicle job for 3 years and it sucked out my soul. For some it works, not for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. jpinneo says:

    I love this entry Elena. Even as a photographer I sit too much editing photos rather than taking them but at least I am in a pleasant room with lots of books, a sofa, a nice western view and can see mountains peaking up over the houses. I can imagine you are an amazing teacher and I’d go for the book dedication!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. trishrohr says:

    I have No doubt you were, are and will be again an amazing teacher. There is not a day that goes by that I do not miss my own MS classroom… I will live vicariously through your journey “home” of that is what you decide to do. I hope you continue to write when you do! Xo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Chelsea says:

    I knew you’d come around 😋 Of course you’re supposed to go back to teaching! Sometimes you need to step back from the painting to see the whole picture. #wholovescliches.
    Also, my “define” option on my phone found no definition for the words “drivel” and “guff”, so as a good student does, I looked them up in a dictionary. Thank you, Ms. Hershey, for teaching me two new words today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. elenahershey says:

      Thanks, Chelsea! Doesn’t “Drivel and Guff” sound like a great name for a pub? 🙂


  5. Annie says:

    All I know is you need to be teaching somewhere, somehow! Whether it’s a school setting or some other venue, you’re a natural, you’re a gift and the world needs you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Cathy says:

    It is a note like Paige’s that fuels a teacher’s spirit, isn’t it? I am reminded of that saying, “They won’t remember what you said or what you did. They will remember how you made them feel.” I believe that, at its core, teaching is about connecting with kids and letting them know that they matter. Your students are fortunate to have felt that connection with you, Elena!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m a satisficer myself (I love Gretchen Rubin!) I love when signs make everything clear. And the note from Paige… Made me choke up. So awesome.


  8. says:

    I loved reading this. Insightful and so true. I totally respect (and love reading about) your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

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