After Julia’s husband said he wanted a divorce and moved out, Julia recognized she needed to rebuild her self-esteem. For Julia, that meant going back to teaching. She found the perfect opportunity and soon it wasn’t only her students who recognized her excellent teaching skills. Being a self-admitted over-achiever, Julia wanted more but the path forward was blocked. Enlisting the support of her children, she changed that. Here’s Julia:
A few years ago, I won a couple of different teaching awards. I won a Jared Polis award as one of the top sixteen teachers in state, I won an award from my school district and I won an award from the education association. And then I was being approached for lots of really great jobs around the district but I couldn’t apply for them because I didn’t have my master’s but I didn’t tell anyone that.
Finally, this woman cornered me and said she didn’t understand why I wasn’t applying. When I told her I didn’t have my master’s, she looked at me like I didn’t have any clothes on. She was shocked.
So that motivated me to do go back to school. I found a program offering a master’s in educational leadership and your principal’s license. A master’s program usually takes two-and-a-half years and a principal’s license usually takes two years but this program smashes them together in one year. It’s one crazy year but I felt that it was the best way to do it with the kids rather than to drag this along forever.
So I sat down with my kids and talked to them about the program. I said,
“Mom has done what she needs to do with teaching and I really want to do this.”
I told them I needed their support and they both agreed and so then I gave them jobs. I paid them to watch themselves. I paid both of them because I didn’t want one to be in charge of the other. I’d get home from school and they would have cleaned the house and done their homework.
I remember one time, I got home about 8:30 at night and my daughter met me in the garage. She was holding one of my big, fancy Chardonnay glasses. She’d filled the whole thing up, which had to have been about a bottle of wine, just to show me how proud they were of me. They wanted to do something special for me.
Another time they drew all these pictures of me, of a supermom and “we’re so proud of you” and they pinned them all behind my bed. I kept them all up there and they’re still there.
The first summer, I had class that went from 8-4:30 every day and I literally had five or six hours of homework every single night. It was the most intense thing I’ve ever done. So I only had about half an hour free each day for my kids and I would let them choose how we spent it. Were we just cuddling and talking or would we have dinner or would we do something together? They would pick the half hour and what they wanted to do and we made that really special but it was all I had.
My kids were really supportive and did a great job so I gave them a pay bonus at the end. It was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed every minute of it. I loved my classes, I loved my professors, I loved what I was writing about, I loved what I was reading about, I loved everything I did and I am really proud of myself.
Someday I’d like to be a principal but I think I have to wait and make it be the right time for my kids. I’m afraid right now, with them both being in middle school, it is not the right time to not be able to be there for them.
The Divorce Coach Says
The two challenges that are most often mentioned by the women I interview are taking on a physical challenge and going back to school. Carolyn went back to school and is now in a nursing program – like Shelley, she’s loving every minute of it.
The key, certainly to going back to school, is finding a program you can commit to taking into consideration all the other demands on your time. Julia doesn’t mention it above but she did have the support of her parents who live close by. The one year program with no time for anything else wouldn’t work for everyone but it’s what Julia knew would work for her. I love how she involved her kids in supporting her and making sure they understood why she wasn’t around.
I know the year’s program was intense – she and I first talked about doing this interview probably almost two years ago and yes, she kept putting me off because of schoolwork. So that’s the other thing you have to be prepared to do – if you want to be successful you have to be able to say no to the tasks and activities that detract from your focus.
Did going back to school help you? What did you do make sure you were successful? Are you thinking of going back to school?