The Career That Lets You Start Over

The Career That Lets You Start Over
Joshua Smalley

We’re now entering the time of year where things are winding down. This is one of my favorite aspects of the teaching profession: there is distinct closure everywhere whereby we can put a marker in the ground and turn the page in life. In other words, not every career affords the chance to truly start all over every year. Many jobs are reiterations of the same thing every day, week after week, month after month, and year after year.

In education, one class from another is very different. Each year is different from the next. I noted this in my first blog post back in January—the idea of the only thing being consistent is the ever-changing environment of international schools. But this is an opportunity. Every year, there is closure, final marks, final goodbyes, and a promise of even better the next year. When we all return in August, things will be fresh, new, and changed a little. There will be new students, new classes, new opportunities.

I remember working as a plumber. While there was variance in the work—commercial vs. residential, remodel vs. new construction, repair service vs. new installations—it was really much the same thing every day. The same codes applied to the same few materials, with the same tools, drilling the same studs. The monotony got to me. I became mentally and physically exhausted. For me, it truly was a TGIF life; I crawled to Friday afternoon each week, and life just flew by without me noticing it. I say “for me” because some people are passionate and skilled in plumbing. This was only my story and what I felt at that time.

Conversely, education provides such unpredictability (working with growing and maturing and dynamic, young human beings) and intrigue that I’m constantly captivated. What works one day with a particular group of students, fails with another; what works with one student, doesn’t work with another. To add to this variability and interest is the fact that it doesn’t go on in the same manner forever. There are just ten months to solve this multitudinous array of problems and experiencing an equal number of successes. Then, a whole new collection of problems and successes commences in the next academic year.

For me, it’s like a chapter of my life’s book. My life is divided by academic years sometimes. It provides a stake in the ground, a marker, a memory of “that class” or “those students” or “that event”. Life as an educator doesn’t blur time together as much as plumbing did for me.

And so as we enter the last couple weeks of the year, I am grateful for being privileged and honored enough to work with such amazing people, in an amazing school, and an honorable profession.

Thank you, ICS, for a year where we proved how much of a community we were during such difficult times. It is a year we will not soon forget. It’s a chapter in our lives marked with a full range of emotions. And we emerged heroes in our own stories.


Joshua Smalley is a High School teacher at ICS whose life's work is to show people the beauty in the world around them and experience it with them.