The Drunken Cyclist recently spearheaded a monthly writing challenge. Each month a new theme is decided upon and writers are given free reign to interpret the selected theme in any way they see fit. The first challenge theme was transportation and The Armchair Sommelier won the round. The writing challenge is a bit daunting to me, a new blogger and new to educating myself about wine, so I sat back and enjoyed the show for the first round. The posts were highly entertaining and I loved reading everyone’s interpretation of the subject at hand. This month, the theme is trouble. I decided to take a risk and throw my hat in the ring!
The trouble with wine, in my case, may end up being my saving grace. Only time will tell. And that time is quickly approaching. You see, I recently made the decision to leave my career as a teacher to pursue a career in the wine industry.
It all began a few years ago, in the autumn of 2011. I had recently broken up with my boyfriend and had an abundance of free time on my hands, particularly on the weekends. I had been elbows deep in helping him with renovations on his home, which turned out to be the demise of our relationship. He clearly didn’t handle stress well and took it out on me. I didn’t deserve to be with someone who didn’t even appreciate all of the time and effort I was putting in during my free time to help him. In any case, being newly single, I was bored. Enter the convergence of social media. A local winery that I had “liked” on Facebook had posted about needing help through the holiday season. I already knew that I loved their wine and I couldn’t think of a more fun way to spend time on the weekend than discussing their wine with guests. I started working there immediately on the weekends.
As time passed, the winery became my fun job. Teaching used to hold the same pleasure for me, but in the last few years the focus had seemed to shift from the students to documentation and paperwork. This change of pace left very little time left in the day to prepare new rigorous and relevant lessons for the students. I was not the type of teacher to have stock lesson plans that I used from year to year. I understood that each set of students that walked through my door at the beginning of the year held unique talents and learning opportunities. I wanted to challenge each child to find their passion and apply learning techniques to finding information about what made them excited. My goal was for them to enjoy learning and become life-long learners, not simply memorize information to regurgitate back to me at a later date to prove their knowledge on a subject I deemed important. My passion was reading and individual conferences were a cornerstone to my lessons because I needed to know my students in important ways to be able to find books that piqued their interest. It was my goal to find the right fit books for each of my kids and I became known throughout my school as the one to go to for a book recommendation. Nothing made me more proud!
But as my day was more and more consumed with documentation, paperwork and learning about the latest buzzwords in education, I was less inspired and able to be the teacher I wanted to be on a daily basis. If my teaching was going to turn into essentially stock worksheets that provide no real learning experience, I didn’t want to be in the classroom. I wanted to make a difference and share my love of knowledge, not simply follow a plan outlined by someone else that hasn’t been in the classroom for twenty years and doesn’t know and love my students like I do. I always felt like it was a slap in the face to see lessons spelled out word for word with no room for interpretation. I did not go to college for four years and work with countless children throughout my life only to be forced to read straight from a sheet, when any person off the street could do the same. It made me feel as if my experience and expertise was not valued. Only scores on a sheet of paper were important.
After a rough start to my teaching year last fall, I debated a switch in careers. I was learning more and more about wine at my weekend job and loving every second of it. I approached the general manager at the winery and inquired about my options there if I decided to take the plunge and switch jobs. By winter, I knew that it was going to be my last year teaching and that I would jump headfirst into this new career.
My principal was nothing but supportive, understanding my need for a change and the frustrations I was encountering. She even encouraged me to think about pursuing administration, but I knew that the administration path would include everything I dislike about teaching (the paperwork, politics, etc.) and wouldn’t include anything I love (the kids, learning with the kids, the kids!)
I researched different wine courses in the area and signed up for an Intro to Sommelier course in the Twin Cities in the spring. If I was switching careers, I was going to make every effort to be as knowledgeable about the new content as possible. This was not passing in the night experience for me. I was serious about my new endeavor.
I was grossly underqualified to take the class. The website suggested at least three to five years in the wine industry. I had been working part-time in the tasting room for eighteen months. They also had a long list of suggested reading. I had a month to prepare; report cards and parent-teacher conferences were on the horizon. I skimmed through two or three of the books. I was in trouble. Although I was a novice by any stretch of the imagination, the classes were immensely educational for me and I don’t regret taking them for a minute. (Although I do regret the amount of money spent in those three days!)
As I learn more about wine, I realize how much more I have to learn! And much of that learning can only be accomplished through experiences. Experiences tasting new and fascinating wines. Experiences traveling to different wine regions. Experiences taking in all of local wineries. Experiences writing posts about my new knowledge. As I read more about wine and other people’s experiences with wine, I become excited about the vast unknown that awaits me in the future!
But all of this excitement could come to a screeching halt soon. The trouble with this decision is that is hasn’t felt real yet. So far, I have been working full time at the winery and learning the ropes of day to day operation, but this has been in the confines of the summertime. A time of year that has always been strangely scheduled for me, either with continuing education classes, tutoring or working other odd jobs to supplement my teacher’s income. So although my life has been different the past few months, that is actually normal for the summer. So essentially, it hasn’t really been different.
This week my former co-workers will start back with beginning of the year meetings. I still don’t know if I am going to be supremely relieved to not be part of the hustle and bustle of August in a classroom setting or severely depressed. Will the trouble of bittersweet emotions spring on me when I see my mom preparing her classroom, the first day of meetings for the teachers, the night of Open House, the first day of school for the students or simply knowing that they are all in the midst of my favorite time of the year? I can hardly contain my excitement the first month of school, so this could be strenuous on my heartstrings.
I am afraid for the emotional breakdown that will likely happen in the next few weeks, but also excited for what the future has to offer. In this regard, I hope that the trouble that could find me in terms of this career change ends up being a bittersweet symphony.