Finding a dream job is hard work. You’ve heard it before. Either inside your own brain or from someone else’s lips: complaints about a current job and desire to find a custom-tailored job that would allow for more freedom (and perhaps a raise!). I can tell you from experience: dreams don’t come cheap!
I’ve now officially worked in the photography business for 2 years (Side note: I need to post about that business birthday! Somehow in the midst of historical protests and a pandemic my excitement waned in the celebration department…) I’ve invested in a lot of business education from photographers such as Amy & Jordan and Katelyn James, and their advice has proven true: building your own business is hard, strategic work. You won’t achieve freedom from labor but you can achieve loving what you do & being your own boss! In this post I will share how I transitioned from a part time teacher to an entrepreneur. Pop the popcorn and get cozy. I’m about to tell you my story!!
Finding My Dream Job – Part One
What did my hands find to do before my photography business was born? (Aka, before I signed up for a tax number and became a legal sole proprietor?) I taught part-time at Prairie Creek Community School as a Spanish teacher for 6 years! I’m so glad they have the word community in our school name because it’s an authentic bunch of teachers, families, and stakeholders that work together! I love my colleagues and teaching work so much, I even pursued my masters degree in K-6 Elementary Education to secure my position long term. Pause. Wait, what? “Jennifer, why did you give you all to Prairie Creek only to resign!?” That, my friends, is an excellent question and the topic of these posts. Hang in there.
The First Dream
Prairie Creek was my dream job. Amazing community. Child-centered teaching. Freedom to design innovative lesson plans. Traditions and rituals. Looking to the future, I hoped that part time would serve me well and that I could teacher for years on end! So did I waste precious time building a career teaching Spanish at an amazing local school? No. With 100% certainty, I believe that I was in the right place at the right time, and I grew so much as an educator, a future mother, and as a human being. These facts remain true: I love the Spanish language, I love partnering with children to discover, and I love designing meaningful and purposeful days. So why did I resign?
Honestly, it all began with motherhood. I consider arriving at that milestone akin to a worldview shift thrust upon me. This shift felt as monumental as the way your brain clicks into an understanding of depth perception and you can never go back to seeing the world the same way (have you ever wondered how all of us once interpreted the world without depth perception?!) I considered my teaching part time as the absolute perfect fit for many reasons.
Yet, suddenly, after the birth of my first son, I found myself perturbed. WHAT?! The time window I am at Prairie Creek is the exact time window of his naps! I definitely felt like Noah, my hubby, got the easy shift in the equation (we chose to live on less and not to do day care, but more on that another day). Though this irked me, I knew sleep patterns would change, but I marveled at how asynchronous it felt to leave home at the time when it’s perfect to rest!
Let’s Add on A Master’s
Tension escalated as I made the decision to pursue my Master’s degree. Here’s where some of you might feel I’m a big wimp. (Spoiler alert: I just kept feeling this gnaw to be a full-time parent.) Student teaching required me to be gone from home the whole day for several months as a typical working mother would experience. Forty hour week. I say all these things with dread because I knew I didn’t EVER want to work full time away from home as a mom. (Our principal continued to ask me through the years about my potential as a full time teacher as I’d always clarify how much I enjoyed part time!) I pursued my Master’s degree because I wanted to secure my place at Prairie Creek.
Part time was the Goldilocks portion – just right! But full time for 70 school days caused me to enter a split mind. In one part of my brain, I was honing valuable classroom management skills and getting to share in daily community of 2nd and 3rd graders. In the other part of my brain (the part which turned on once I left school), I felt like a failure as a mother, shirking my duty. It still pains me to remember coming home to my little 16-month-old boy and knowing that I had missed hours of discovery and Swedish language time with him (His first Swedish word was blueberry). Now, I knew that my student teaching time would end, but that did not make it less painful. I am so grateful for this time because I gained compassion for mothers who work full time.
However, for myself, I knew my heart would rip in half if I kept muting my longings for being home, pouring into my children, and being a full time mom. I could not let go of the call to be the main influence in my child’s life. After student teaching, I returned to the bliss of my part time job for a good time. I also officially launched my photography business in May 2018 after years of shooting as an enthusiast (camera industry speak for those who enjoy a nice-ish yet cheap camera and don’t get paid for it). I leveled up my camera body to a full frame and really enjoyed meeting new people and growing as an artist.
How wonderful, I thought, that photography would dovetail with my part time work since Minnesota’s weather is nicest in summer. Unfortunately, this thought was completely misinformed. (We Minnesotans do not like ultra hot weather, nor mosquitos…foreshadowing of increased pressure). I felt on top of the world! I was loving my family, providing, and growing as an educator and as a photographer. Nothing could be improved upon. Two dream jobs working together! Or so I thought.
Teaser for Part Two: When my second son Enoch was born (who is now 1 year old!!), these tensions returned. I had to face myself and my dreams–all of them– and discern what values I had, and how my time needed to be spent. To be continued…
Prairie Creek’s lovely entrance in springtime!
Paper cranes in the room where I student taught.
Outside breaks were always so fun! Outdoor education is a strong value at Prairie Creek.
Those cherry blossoms… so idyllic! I loved seeing them burst forth in spring. Student comic about a traditional dessert. La mantequilla is apparently evil.
My loyal companion, Pedro el perezoso, who assists me in teaching Spanish!
Shots of my classroom! Colorful and bright. Levi seven days after being born! Newborn photography by the lovely Jenna Celeste.
A photo session taken with my enthusiast camera.
Shooting my Sony Nex-3 in our old apartment, the “Enthusiast Camera” I reference. Yup, it’s a red pepper body!
This is how old Levi was during student teaching! He had an amazing mullet because his hair grew quickly in that spot.
My first professional business headshot…was actually a maternity photo! Enoch’s in there, all cozy.
Gorgeous farewell gift from my colleagues at Prairie Creek. It’s right next to my computer!
The 2020 Prairie Creek t-shirt! I’m so thankful to have these t-shirts to remember my time – and this gorgeous piece of art, given as a farewell gift!
The very computer on which I write this post – complete with framed Master’s degree in Elementary Education as a crown.