May 2, 2012

Two Roads Diverged

 I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost

After a full week of studying and worrying about graduation, I am emotionally exhausted, and the ride isn't over yet. The latest news: I've passed Spanish. Yup, you read that right. My TA bumped up the final exam score enough for me to pass with a D. I'm still not happy about the grade or the evaluations, so I'll be writing letters to the Chancellor and who ever else might respond. The bottom line though is that it's passing and I'll be graduating on time which means that New Orleans is back on the table. Which brings me to the next bit of stress: Do I want to teach in New Orleans?

For the past few days I've been looking at schools in Maine. Small schools in rural coastal towns and islands where I could start small in an area I adore. Maybe I just did too good a job of justifying the potential loss of NOLA, but I kind of want to teach in Maine and wondering if, even with the guarantees of New Orleans, I really want to head south.

Here are the pros and cons as I see them:

New Orleans
  • Pros: It's a fun city and I'll be doing a rewarding job while learning a lot about how to teach under the worst of circumstances. Rent is cheap and Sarah will be joining me down there, so it will be even cheaper. The pay is good and it's going to look great on a resume. I also won't have to use my car (which is not sounding great) so that will let me keep more of my paycheck. Another huge pro is that teachNOLA will provide support throughout the school year so I'll have an advocate.
  • Cons: I don't plan on living in New Orleans forever or even making a career out of inner city based education. The experience, while rewarding, will be stressful and at time discouraging. I'll be expected to advance my students at least 1 1/2 years, not the typical one grade level, so there will be long hours and lots of nail biting. The education through teachNOLA is excelent and helpful, but it's not free. By the end of the year it costs about $4,000 which will be taken out of my paychecks. Even though I have a position with teachNOLA I'll still have to find a school when I get down there, so I'll be doing applications and interviews for a while until I'm hired as well as teaching summer school, working at the hostel, and not making any money. And then of course there is the heat and humidity. 
  • Pros: Maine is  beautiful and one of my favorite states, plus there are few things I love as much as the ocean, so you can't beat the location. The rural schools have small classes which would allow me to teach without the pressures of a large inner city school and really focus on method and material, which might be a benefit in the long run. I'm familiar with the culture and, while this may not seem like a big deal, it definitely can come in handy especially when dealing with families.  Speaking of families, I'll be within a day's drive (7 hours) of my nephews and my parents, which would be kind of nice.
  • Cons: They pay less and I might have to figure out transportation (fix the Jetta or buy something), which will cut my paycheck even further. While money was never the point, it does come in handy when the credit card bill comes due. I'll also have to figure out housing which could be sparse depending on the location. I won't have the educational benefits of the teachNOLA summer program or the support from an outside organization. In New Orleans I would have staff supporting my job hunt, but realistically I might not even be hired by a school in Maine.
When I begin to lean towards Maine I wonder if it's only because off the stress I've been under this year. Maybe I just want some calm and quiet, which is not a good reason to choose Maine in the long term. On the other hand I wonder if I lean towards New Orleans only because I've put so much time, effort, and money (plane tickets) into securing the position.

I wish I has a week to think about it, but I need to either start my course work for New Orleans ASAP or start applying for jobs in Maine. I was looking at summer schools I could teach at and they'll need applications even sooner. 
So come on, peanut gallery: you've always given me good advice. Which road?


  1. I vote for NOLA, but I've always been a bird-in-the-hand kind of person.

  2. Which sacrifice will yield you what you really want in the shorter span of time? You'll have to weigh the amount of pain/length of time ratio to really figure that one out.

    One other thing to keep in mind. Even if you pick the one you want, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll stay there for long. I picked Austin as my home city, but opportunity took me to San Antonio. I hate the summers here but the job is making it possible for me to achieve my goals in a far better way than expected.

    I wish you luck with which ever city you go with Ash.

    1. I'd go with Maine...

  3. I've always been a fan of the Benjamin Franklin method of decision making. You've got a good list of pros and cons to work from...just work it out a little more using a proven process.
    Best wishes!

  4. Oh Ashley...

    I have watched you all semester be stressed out and yet so excited for the future. I know you just want to get away, but you were excited about New Orleans specifically. You got a private tour when you went to visit and got to feel the rich culture and boundless opportunities of a lively city. You've scoured craigslist for apartments, discussed decoration ideas and how to find a new roommate. There is so much potential and so many benefits to following through with your plans. It's understandable that you want a break as things have been hard lately, but I don't think the kind of break you need is one that takes you to an island for several years and requires you miss out on this great opportunity. You have put so much effort into NOLA. You've practiced presentations and done interviews and taken tests and rode your first plane and shared the excitement of the journey every day with us. I would feel so bad if you just gave up on all that hard work simply because you're tired. Take a week off of Anthro and just go enjoy yourself for a bit. I guarantee you won't need more than a week of relaxation to get your mind prepared for the road ahead. A little town on a little island of peace and quiet will always be there for you. NOLA is now. It would give you great experience and keep you moving and busy and interested. You will get bored so quickly if you just jump ship and go to Maine. In NOLA you will meet all different kinds of people and really get a feel for what you want to do with your degree. You will have support and become certified and get pretty much as much as you would want for only a one year program. And that said, it's only ONE YEAR. That's nothing. But it would be one year lost if you gave up on it. Obviously I will support you in whatever decision you make, but I honestly think you should persevere and go with NOLA. If it really doesn't work, you can leave. But at least try it out so you have no regrets. You'll figure it out. Good luck :)

  5. In all honesty I think you should go to New Orleans. You have put so much effort into it and you've talked about it before to me and I've seen how excited you've gotten. "Life begins when you break out of your comfort zone" and as scary as it sounds or as frustrating as times may be, you'll always have the "what if" if you never try it out. You have such a wonderful, enthusiastic, amiable personality and I'd love to see it as its full potential. The children of New Orleans needs a young inspired teacher if they want to improve their lives and thats 100% you. Besides, Maine will always be there waiting for you if NOLA isn't the right fit. No decision is final and you can always change your mind, but don't leave any regrets in life.
    In the end, do what makes you happy :)

  6. You're an achiever and you like to challenge yourself. You'd be great with disadvantaged kids. You've done so well in getting accepted for Nola and in organizing accommodation. Don't let cold feet stop you. You are absolutely brilliant. So my vote is Nola. All the best and whatever you choose is not forever and will be the right thing for you because there are no right or wrong decisions. Just ones you learn from.

  7. Hi. I don't even know you and haven't been reading your blog long but this post screams "NOLA" to me.

    Maine feels safer and cozier, and in some ways easier (assuming you can find a job) but there's something in your soul that really wants the New Orleans experience so if you'd ask me that's what I'd steer you toward.

    As someone said above, you don't have to stay forever :)

  8. Congratulations! I knew you'd pass. Just didn't know how

  9. So, what's wrong with the Jetta? I know my way around a VW and can offer free advice if needed.

    1. There are many many things wrong, but mainly it's just the normal stuff that comes with 203,000 miles. I need a new drive belt, the breaks are sqeeking, and there are a few electrical problems. I just need the cash to fix her up!

  10. Go to Maine! Follow your heart, your intuition. It's not about money, the money will come. Ask yourself: "What do I really want to do?" Then do it. Life is too short not to do what we really want to do. And, it's too long to do something we really don't want to do!

    I just started reading your blog. It's beautiful. Your writing is beautiful. Your life is beautiful. Live it!!

    1. Thanks Mel, you might be right. I'm fighting between what I want to do and what makes sense:)


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