Last May, the Hubster and I sat down and began discussing what to do about my impending return to work. My maternity leave officially ended in July of 2017, but for the first time I just didn’t feel ready to go back to work. I was raring to get back after both Ruby and Hank, but things were different after Will. I was just barely coming up for air from my Post Partum Anxiety, sleep was non-existent and I was in pretty much non-stop pain from my back and hip issues.
With my job, I have the option to extend my leave for one year (unpaid) without losing my seniority, so we decided to go for it. I had also been hemming and hawing about taking my Honours English Specialist course for some time, but had put it off as I knew how much work it would be. I knew it would be extremely challenging to try and complete it while working, so I decided I would spend this extra year off getting it done. If you’re unfamiliar with what a specialist course entails, here’s a brief description from the University I applied to:
This Honour Specialist English course examines critical issues while building on your professional experience as an English teacher and developing strategies you may find useful in a leadership position. Candidates will work with colleagues and participate in projects including a course culminating activity which is designed to synthesize learning from the course for application to teaching practice. The course is designed to promote strategies that support students’ conceptual development and enduring understandings.
This leadership course has been developed for teachers who already have a deep level of learning about subject content and pedagogy gained from practical teaching experience, professional reading and previous course work.
As I began the application process, I realized that I was in a bit of an unfortunate situation because of the double major I completed in my undergrad. Most teachers only need to complete ONE specialist course in their primary teachable subject area. As I didn’t have the required undergraduate courses to do that, I had two choices: take another full year undergraduate English course, or complete a dual specialist in both my teachable subjects: English and History.
In the end, I chose the dual specialist as I could complete it in less time and I felt it would be more beneficial to my career. But it meant completing a course designed for teachers who “already have a deep level of learning about subject content and pedagogy gained from practical teaching experience, professional reading and previous course work”.
I have almost eight years experience teaching English. Want to guess how much experience I have teaching History? Zero. Zip. Zilch.
Each course was challenging in its own way. I decided to try and wade through the History course first, as I knew it would be the more challenging of the two. I was right. The course load was insanely heavy. Huge readings, near daily posting requirements to the online discussion board, with non-stop assignments to complete. I felt like I was playing catch-up through the entire course as I had no experience to draw from. I would have completely drowned if I hadn’t had some amazing friends come to my rescue and loan me some of their resources to draw from. I created a daily calendar of tasks to keep myself on track, and as long as I kept up with it I worked my way through. I worked every afternoon while the boys napped, and pretty much every evening after they went to bed. This course coincided with a brief reprieve of Will’s sleep issues, and for a few weeks he slept through the night more often than not. It was busy, insane and I may or may not have cried multiple times about the amount of work, but we made it through. I did it and it felt AMAZING.
And then I had to start all over again.
My English Specialist course started in January. Of the two courses, this one was less heavy in terms of daily readings and assignments, but it seemed more challenging in other ways. The professor for this course wanted us to post absolutely everything on the discussion board to be peer reviewed. I am so shy about posting work as I’m always afraid it’s not good enough, so every time I submitted an assignment I was a complete ball of nerves knowing that everyone else would have to view it and provide feedback. Will also basically stopped sleeping through the entire duration of the course. He has had eight teeth come in since January, and he jumped out of his crib, so we were forced to transition him to his toddler bed earlier than planned. I spent most nights laying on the floor of his room with him, and most days walking around in a daze waiting for him to nap so I could sleep. It was so hard to find enough time where I actually felt alert enough to complete the coursework. After a mini-meltdown, I finally conceded that I couldn’t do it alone and asked for help. My wonderful friend started coming over once a week to watch the boys for a morning so that I could have 2.5 hours to work uninterrupted and still be able to nap when they did.
These past few weeks have been utterly exhausting, but I finally submitted the massive final assignment late Thursday night. It’s taken me a few days to come off the stress and catch up on some missed sleep, but it’s finally sinking in that my time is my own again. It felt soooooo good to rip my assignment calendar off the wall as there is NO MORE WORK. My final marks came in last night and I’m over the moon. It was a ton of work, but I put in my best effort and it paid off:
BAM. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m pretty proud of that.
So, now two new qualifications will show up on my teaching certificate, and I get to decide what’s next for me. My leave is approved until September, so we have some big decisions to make before then.
But I’ll think about that tomorrow.
For now I am thoroughly enjoying watching all the TV shows I’ve missed, reading books I actually want to read, and going on adventures with my boys without worrying about how I’ll squeeze in time to study AND clean the house.
Life is good, my lovelies. Life is good.