I Really Need Some Good Advice.

Discussion in 'General Education' started by RainStorm, Jul 2, 2019.

  1. RainStorm

    RainStorm Aficionado

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    Jul 2, 2019

    I hesitate to share this, because it is so deeply personal – but I need some good advice. I’m in a tough situation, and I don’t know what to do. This is long. I apologize in advance for that.

    A little background. I’m an elementary school teacher at a small private school in a very remote area. Ten years ago, my loved one was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. For the past six years, his care has taken a great deal of my time. For the last two years, his care took most every moment of my spare time, outside of teaching. The past six months? It has taken every waking hour outside of teaching. I haven’t had a social life in years. But his is what being a family means -- we take care of each other.

    I should add that during these 10 years, I’ve only missed a day and a half of school because of it. I kept up with all of my work, did engaging lesson plans and lessons, graded assignments quickly, followed all the rules, communicated with parents, attended faculty meetings, etc., and did my best under the circumstances. I’ve been pleasant, professional and cheerful while teaching, but yes, there have been times I’ve been exhausted. My students thrived, did a fantastic job on testing, made good grades, and had no discipline problems. School was my shining star – my place of salvation. It kept me going.

    For the past six months, I’ve had to let some things fall by the wayside – things like nights and weekends at school activities. Things like attending school sporting events, the school play, and fundraisers. I communicated with my principal often about this, but he wasn’t terribly understanding. I’ve done all my own extracurriculars, but just haven’t had the time or energy to be as supportive of things that happen after school hours as I’ve been in the past.

    I had to set priorities. I don’t think, under the circumstances, that was unreasonable. Once it became necessary, I hired medical people to be with him during the day so I could continue working – but nights and weekends I was on my own.

    While my loved one was physically fine, as the disease progressed, his memory and reasoning skills disappeared. Everything fell on me. Medical, financial, legal – I had to take over everything. He just couldn’t do it anymore. About two years ago, I had to take his car away because he was no longer driving safely. I became his legal guardian, because he was no longer able to make rational decisions. That was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.

    In the past six months, things progressed, and I was in the process of having him placed in a medical facility, because it was becoming too much for me to handle alone. Then last month, he fell and had to be rushed to the hospital. He was no worse for wear when all was said and done – other than being a bit bruised and sore, he didn’t break anything. But he had hit his head, so they did a brain scan to make sure there was no problem.

    My world came to a screeching halt that early morning. The doctor called me out into the hall, and then told me the news. Inoperable brain cancer. Very advanced brain cancer. The words hit like a ton of bricks. I was told to take him home, make him comfortable, to get his affairs in order... I took him home. I hired round-the-clock nurses. I called in hospice. Within days, he was bedridden and he didn’t know me anymore. He was confused and lost.

    We only had two weeks left of school at this point. The doctors said hospice could go on for months. Believe it or not, I went to work every day. It was the only bright spot in my life. I couldn’t sit up with him 24 hours a day and do nothing else. Teaching kept me going. I stayed up all night with him, and was operating on about 3-5 hours sleep a night those last two weeks of school, but I seemed to have the strength of ten. Somehow, I did it. When the last day for students came, I left too. I didn’t stay for the last week for teachers. I asked my principal first, and he agreed.

    Because I wasn't there for the last week for teachers, my school sent over my new contract for me to sign. It had a letter with it that said I needed to sign it and return within 4 days. This was a month earlier than we usually signed contracts. I asked for an extension, because I was in no state-of-mind to make a major life decision right then. My principal never responded to my request, so I took that as a no. I talked with our doctors about what they thought would happen, and was told hospice could go on for months. Reluctantly, I signed the contract and sent it in by the deadline. I’m the sole breadwinner. I’m the one with medical insurance. I could not risk losing my medical insurance.

    The morning after I signed the contract, he slipped into a coma. Thirty hours later, he died.

    I am so thankful I was at his side when it happened. From diagnosis to death took 15 days. I’m still in shock, really.

    I made the final arrangements. I wrote his obituary. I settled the estate. I donated all his clothes and personal possessions. I did that all within a week. Now, I look around. I’m alone. I have no family here. I have no social circle. My colleagues, while kind, are not close to me, I have no church family, no support circle. Nothing. Crickets.

    There is literally nothing here for me now. This is a very remote area. There is nothing here. I can’t imagine living here alone. I really think its time for me to move on. But I signed a contract to teach next year. I’ve always honored my word.

    I only signed the contract two weeks ago, but I still signed it. If I’m not coming back, I feel the need to tell them right away so they can start making plans to get someone else. School starts mid-August here. But I really want to take a couple weeks to travel and really think about my options. I don’t think rushing into a major life decision right now is the answer.

    I’m so torn. I want to leave, but I’ve always honored my commitments. But I can’t honestly see myself staying for another year.

    What should I do?
     
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  3. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Jul 2, 2019

    Travel. Take time to let things settle. See if your opinion changes when you get home.

    Just in case, be thinking about other options. It’s hard to make decisions when emotions are running high. Maybe things will be more clear later.

    I’m sorry you've had a rough time.
     
  4. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    Jul 3, 2019

    I am a fellow widow. My first instinct is to tell you to not make major changes for about a year as I was told over a decade ago. I get why people advise this. It’s a difficult time. I tried to heed this advice for the most part, but it was hard. I was somewhat isolated like you.

    That said, I think grief is such a personal thing. Unfortunately, I’ve had four friends who’ve lost their husbands in recent years. Each one has come to me to tell me that they are doing x instead of the expected y. I’m not divulging their examples, but they felt guilty about how they were grieving. I’ll repeat that. They felt guilty about how they were grieving. I’ve repeatedly told them that as long as they weren’t breaking any laws, what they did to cope was no one else’s business. If your coping is moving to a new place with a new job, do what you need to do.

    Take a week and think it through. Either way, it’ll be hard. PM me if you ever want a sounding board.
     
  5. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Jul 3, 2019

    I'm sorry for your loss. I agree...take some time right now to take care of yourself.Then speak to your P, if he is amenable, and run things by him. If he isn't and you decide you need to leave, give them your notice and don't look back. Good luck!
     
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  6. Lisabobisa

    Lisabobisa Companion

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    Jul 3, 2019

    My heart and prayers go out to you reading your story!

    You said "Believe it or not, I went to work every day. It was the only bright spot in my life. I couldn’t sit up with him 24 hours a day and do nothing else. Teaching kept me going"

    I suggest to stay at your current job at least for now. The familiarity and routine might be good in the upcoming months to keep you going.
     
  7. Missy

    Missy Aficionado

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    Jul 3, 2019

    I remember years back when you made this move.

    I have not had a similar experience, but I know you are level-headed, responsible and very dedicated. If your location is not right for you, I would definitely consider moving. I say this not just for your own well-being, but because I am appalled at the lack of concern and consideration shown to you by your building and principal.

    Please keep us posted.
     
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  8. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Jul 3, 2019

    I wanted to send my condolences.

    I have no advice.
     
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  9. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Jul 3, 2019

    Oh, Rain....so sorry to hear this. It’s so difficult being a caregiver and I send my condolences. Many grief professionals advise not making major life decisions soon after a loss, but you know what is best for you. Do take some time for you- it’s over a month before school starts. Take a trip, find some quiet, reflective space to rest, reflect, and rejuvenate. Wishing you well...
     
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  10. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Jul 3, 2019

    My condolences. It's bad enough to deal with Alzheimer's, but the double whammy of brain cancer seems so unfair. As someone who has dealt with the slow progression on Alzheimer's, however, in many ways this unexpectedly quick demise may, in retrospect, be seen as a blessing. I know that I have come to appreciate that my loved one went very quickly once we were forced to put him in constant care out of the home, and with hindsight, it soon showed itself to be a kind of "gift". My loved one was not able to be home, but not happy in the nursing facility, leaving everyone unsettled. The sudden downhill spiral took only about 3 weeks, and then he was gone. Because he had strict instructions on what could and could not be done, those terrible decisions were lifted from our shoulders.

    As for what to do this coming school year - let everything stand for the moment. Travel, where I am sure you will contemplate. If you are still undecided, start the school year and see how it feels. You may feel closer to your work family than you realize. They may approach you more openly now, because it is very had to know what to say to someone who is the caregiver to someone with Alzheimer's - we all hope that it will never be us, until it is, and then we know what we could have done before, but didn't, making us feel guilty. You seem to be fully involved with your school's activities and culture, something that may be a comfort to you as life normalizes. On the other hand, if, half way through the year you are unhappy, feel free to retire or relocate. You just don't have to make that decision right now.

    Accept help and support to get through the rough patches, which will be unpredictable, but don't think of contracts as written in stone - do what works for you, when it works for you. Deepest condolences and my hope for brighter years to come.
     
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  11. RainStorm

    RainStorm Aficionado

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    Jul 3, 2019

    Thank you so much for the advice and good wishes. It means a lot.

    VIckilyn, you mentioned that this might have been a blessing in disguise. I can tell you this -- there is no disguise -- this truly was a blessing from God. I know that seems strange to say, but he was spared from years more of the ravages of Alzheimer's. When he went, it happened quickly and without hesitation. In the end, he was never alone.

    I haven't taken a real vacation in over 10 years. I decided it is time. I've booked travel for a few weeks.I think I'll have time to think things through and make some decisions. Traveling alone isn't always the best -- but right now, it is my only option. I've signed up for tours, and spa treatments, day trips, and shopping. I'm going to try and keep myself busy.

    Somehow, when one door closes, another opens. It could be a real adventure. Who knows?
     
  12. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Jul 3, 2019

    Hugs to you RainStorm. I am so sorry for all you have gone through and admire you for the way you were able to continue to care for your loved one and for your students at the same time. Getting away is great advice, and I'm so glad you are doing that. I've traveled solo for the past 2 summers, and have found it rejuvenating. You have time to reflect and get to know yourself again, doing what you want to when you want to do it.

    Making decisions about the upcoming school year will be challenging, as you may feel the pressure of time. Don't do anything rash, but don't close any doors.
     
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  13. Geologygirl

    Geologygirl Comrade

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    Jul 3, 2019

    First I want to say I am so sorry for your loss.
    I lost my father at the beginning of May, and I understand how it feels to feel like your not be able to make decisions about important life choices.
    I hope that the vacation that you planned gives you the time and space you need to make your decision and feel at peace with it. Traveling can be a way of healing. I wish you the best.

     
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  14. Missy

    Missy Aficionado

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    Jul 3, 2019

    I am so glad you have already made some plans to care for yourself. Have a wonderful time!
     
  15. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Jul 3, 2019

    Understood, trust me. The first time I said that about my FIL, someone I thought understood how hard the years had been looked at me as if I had become a murderer. I was hurt. If you haven't lived with an Alzheimer's patient, watching them slip away from you, replaced by someone it is hard to get to know, then you don't really understand Alzheimer's at all. You occasionally see glimmers of what you knew before, moments of utter clarity that are gone in a second. The patient can't truly mourn the loss of those lucid moments, but they are bittersweet for those left behind. Heal yourself, to the best of your ability, and let time heal your wounds. Travel safely, at peace. :hugs:
     
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  16. rpan

    rpan Cohort

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    Jul 3, 2019

    I don’t have any advice really but my grandmother who has Alzheimer’s was just diagnosed with a brain tumour so I’ve been reading your stories with trepidation. I’m sorry for your loss and I hope you take some time for yourself to regroup. Don’t make any big life decisions because when you’re in the right headspace to decide what will happen in the future you want to have as many options as possible.
     
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  17. Master Pre-K

    Master Pre-K Virtuoso

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    Jul 5, 2019

    I wish you healing...and hope for a peaceful future.

    Nobody knows how or what they will feel when our lives are shaken and our loved ones depart from us. Going back to work seems to be the easy and simple answer, but it's neither in most cases. I still don't understand how we as a nation only allow a person 3 days off for bereavement. I didn't feel like myself for 2 years after my mom passed away. Now I am dealing with the same feelings as my dad is struggling with his Alzheimer's and finally breaking through the negative backlash from controlling siblings, who felt the need to isolate him from me.

    Look further RainStorm. Check back with the hospital and hospice for grief support groups. Also check your local church as well. Having people to sit and talk to who understand your pain will be a good start. Contact your local Alzheimer's association to see if they have some support groups too.

    You are entitled to time off. Do what feels right for you. If you need two weeks, two months, even a leave of absence for two years...only you can be the one to determine that. And when you are up to it, look into resources that will help you manage things. There are benefits and programs you probably are eligible for, but didn't have a clue or the strength to investigate. When you get the energy, do what you can. Look for help, ask all the questions, sign up for everything out there you are entitled to receive. Then, if you want to sit, cry, or just look out the window..for two days...do that. Follow your own energy. But try not to sit too long. Reach out to friends and family and let them know they can call, text, email or just drop by when you want company. And when people say, if there's anything they can do to help - let them! Start a list of things you can't manage to do. If that's the dishes, laundry, or getting the car serviced, let people help you.

    Sending you prayers for your journey...
     
  18. RainStorm

    RainStorm Aficionado

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    Jul 16, 2019

    Dear Friends,
    So much has happened in these past two weeks. Just on a lark, I had applied for a Florida license. It came through quickly. I was quite surprised. I've always wanted to live in Florida. I did a lot of online research, and found a part of Florida I thought I'd like to live in, that had fabulous schools. On a whim, I applied for 8 jobs in that area.

    So the night before my big trip to the Smoky Mountains, I got a call from a principal in Florida asking me if I could phone interview the next day. I explained I was leaving in the morning and would be driving all day, but if she wanted to do it first thing in the morning, I could leave a little later than planned, and do it. She agreed. So I had an interview at 9am.

    We really clicked, and she offered me the job on the phone! She said HR would contact me in a day or two to make the official offer. I didn't commit, but said I'd think it over. So I left on my trip, thinking that I'd think about it.

    When I got to the Smoky Mountains, it was quite late. I checked my voicemail from home, and there were 8 more interview offers from the area I wanted to live in. Long story short, I didn't see too much of the Smoky Mountains that week -- I did a lot of phone interviews. I got several offers, and I got more voice mails from other principals in the system that I hadn't even applied for! They must have a real teacher shortage in that area. I checked everything out online as best I could, and then called my real estate agent in Florida, and asked her to check out three of the schools for me. She did and they all checked out as being great schools.

    The principal even arranged for me to talk to a few of my new grade-level colleagues (I had asked her for that -- teaching is just awful if you don't have decent team-mates) and they all seemed pleasant enough and welcoming.

    So I thought, and the more I thought, the more I realized I wanted to go with the first offer. It was a great fit for me. She had asked for some references, which I provided, and she liked what she heard. I got the offer from HR, and I accepted! I gave notice at my old school (and they were quite understanding.) It all seems like it is meant to be.

    So I left the Smoky Mountains on Sunday, and am in route to Florida. I'll arrive tomorrow night, and then Wednesday is a whirl of fingerprinting, drug testing, meeting with my real estate agent, etc etc. I have a hotel room booked for a week.

    I'm not sure I'm going to be able to get back home to before my job starts! I have a fair amount of clothes with me, but I may have to buy some more I don't have ANY of my teacher stuff with me.. but surely I can find a teacher's store nearby. New Teacher Orientation is on July 29th! It takes me 2 and 1/2 days to get back home, and then 2 and a half days to get back (traffic permitting). I have to rest at least one day in between. Because of my disability, I have a REALLY hard time with multi-day travel, so even this schedule would be hard on me. So I'd need 6 days to get home and back. I also need to find a place to live while I'm there... so as you can see, it is not looking very likely.

    I have a good friend back home who would be willing to stop by my house and pack some things up and ship them to me, once I get a stable shipping address. I might have to ship them to the school. We'll see.

    The hardest thing is my dogs are still back home. I have a sweet high school student who lives right across the street who goes by 4 times a day (minimum) and takes care of them and spends time with them, but I feel a little guilty. I've hired her through July 29th (because that is when I was originally scheduled to get back) but she has said she could do it for longer if I needed her. She sends me pictures of the dogs everyday, and they seem to be happy and healthy. I did find a place online that is willing to drive my dogs from back home to my new house, once I get a new house or a temporary place to live. They drive straight through on an air conditioned van, and if they do have to stop to sleep, they sleep on the van with the dogs. It sounded pretty good.

    So my life is in a whirl right now -- but its a good whirl. I've got things being overnighted to me at the hotel (I never thought to bring my social security card and such) so I can get my paperwork processed in Florida. It's all happening so quickly.

    Florida -- here I come!
     
  19. rpan

    rpan Cohort

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    Jul 16, 2019

    Congratulations! If your gut feeling is telling you it’s right then it probably is. This will be a fresh start and to start in a great school and decent work colleagues, it’s going to make the transition easier. Good luck! I’m so pleased things have worked out!
     
  20. Missy

    Missy Aficionado

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    Jul 16, 2019

    Wow! Things are happening fast, but you sound very happy so I am happy for you!
    Good luck on all of the moving, packing and starting a new job!
     
  21. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Jul 16, 2019

    I am so sorry about all this. It's heart breaking. I don't think I'm qualified to give any advice because (fortunately) I haven't been in this situation, but I think it might be easier to just stay at your current job for the year. AS you will deal with the loss, your current situation and the changes, at least you will have one stable, familiar thing in your life, and that is your work. As that was the one thing that kept you going, it might be the one thing to keep you grounded this year.
    Starting a new job, and dealing with new responsibilities, challenges, the unknown, etc might be too much to deal with on top of everything else.
    And this way you will have an entire year to decide where you want to live and find the perfect job, as opposed to trying to find something last minute.
     

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