I was doing better with my resolution to write more this year… and then life caught up with me. The last few months have been a whirlwind of job searching, soul searching, house hunting, packing, moving, unpacking, and settling in. Now, as the dust begins to settle, I find myself wanting to get back to writing (and teaching).

As I alluded to in my last post, I’ve been in the midst of a career move, leaving the small boarding school in rural eastern Virginia where I spent the past three years in favor of a considerably larger day school in Tampa, Florida. My wife and I decided last winter that it was time for a change, but I don’t think either of us could have predicted the way things shook out. (Florida, for instance, was not even on our radar when I started my job search. Life is funny sometimes.)

The school we left behind was a lovely little community in many respects. We made some good friends, folks we’ll probably stay in touch with for a long time, but the career opportunities for my wife were sparse, and while she did manage to find meaningful work, few of her colleagues were in the same age bracket/life stage. Owing to the “triple threat” nature of boarding schools, I was usually busy, even on the weekends, and she felt particularly isolated.

Finally, last year I had been offered an administrative role at the school. I was initially very excited about the opportunity, but as the year progressed, I found myself missing the classroom. I taught one section of a class which met 2-3 times per week, and there were plenty of times when that was the highlight of the day. It got me out of my office, interacting with kids, thinking and talking about ideas, and I came to realize that this is the part of the job I love the most. I also felt like I had a lot more work to do to hone my craft as a teacher, and I wasn’t able to do it in that setting or especially in that role. I may very well return to school leadership someday—there are challenges in that realm which intrigue me—but at this point in my career, I don’t feel the need. (That said, I did learn a lot this past year, which I expect will serve me well if/when I do rejoin the administrative ranks. Perhaps that will become a future post.) Along with a few other factors which I won’t get into here, these things set the stage for a move, so I set out in search of a new teaching position.

My experience of the job market was very different this time around than last, when I talked to what felt like 50 different schools and went on (I think) eight campus interviews. This time, the search was more focused from the very beginning. I was invited for a campus interview here in Tampa, and my wife and I spent a weekend here prior to that (neither of us had ever been here before). We really liked what we saw. Tampa felt like the right size—not huge, but with plenty to do. There were different areas of the city, each with their own unique feel. We got some great restaurant recommendations, visited a local brewery, and went for a run along the Hillsborough River, where we saw dolphins breaching the surface. (Of course, it helped that the weather was fantastic. Only a couple of days before, I had been wearing fleece long underwear on the baseball field in Virginia, while in Tampa I wore shorts and a t-shirt.)

In terms of the school itself, I was impressed. There seemed to be a strong intellectual culture among the faculty, along with significant support for professional development. Students appeared bright and engaged, and the history department’s approach meshed well with my own. As we left Tampa, I was excited about the possibilities and hoped I would get an offer. About a week later, it did.

At that point, everything “got real,” and the decision was much harder than I expected it would be. Even with its downsides, the setting in Virginia was beautiful—right on the Rappahannock River near its confluence with the Chesapeake Bay. Crossing the river on the nearby bridge, especially at sunset, could be truly breathtaking. The leadership at my school had been good to me, rewarding me with new responsibilities each year, and it seemed as if I was on an upward career trajectory. And perhaps most importantly, we were close to our families—about 90 minutes away. Even though we didn’t see them nearly as often as we would have liked (boarding school life…), knowingly putting 12 hours of driving distance between us suddenly became tough to justify. After much soul-searching, it was my wife who clarified things for me. She had initially been skeptical when I told her I was thinking of applying for the job in Tampa, but she warmed to the idea, and after listening to me hem and haw for a few days, she finally said, “Matt, this is a good opportunity. You should take it.”

The saga of our house-hunting adventure could easily fill many more paragraphs, but in the end, we bought a small house in a neighborhood that we love. We’re within walking distance of a great park along the river. After several years of having to drive 45 minutes to a good restaurant, we’re now within walking distance of several. And I didn’t realize it before I took the job, but Tampa Bay actually has a phenomenal craft beer scene, with several breweries a stone’s throw from us. We have a sunny backyard where we hope to finally be able to do some gardening, and I’ve made it to my new school in 7 minutes, though I think I may try biking to work when the weather cooperates. All in all, we’re excited about our new situation, and after several weeks of settling in (and countless trips to Home Depot), I’m finally in a place where I can enjoy what’s left of summer.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading (another future post?) and am beginning to plan for the coming school year. While I can’t honestly say I’m not quite ready to give up the summer schedule, I am starting to feel the itch to get back into the classroom. It’s a good feeling.


So it’s been almost a year since I lasted posted here, and much has changed since that time. When I last posted (early December 2012), I was anticipating a busy spring. Little did I know. Things always seem to get busy in February with the start of baseball season (check the blog’s archives–or lack thereof–for evidence of this phenomenon), and on top of that, I was gearing up for a national job search.

Shortly after that post, job referrals started coming in, and we were off to the races. Between writing approximately 60 cover letters to schools all over the country, doing numerous phone/Skype interviews, traveling for three hiring fairs (Atlanta, Atlanta, and Boston) and six campus interviews (Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, and Virginia), baseball, and–oh, yeah–teaching a full courseload, the spring flew by. The end result of all of that, though, was that I found a great new opportunity, and my wife and I are excited to be back in our home state.

I had started my search with a three-pronged mission: 1) to find a school with a baseball program where I could teach and coach–as opposed to teaching in one school and coaching in another, which had been the norm for me; 2) to find a school that was very intentional in its curricular design and committed to a more constructivist approach to education; and 3) to find a school that was, ideally, in Virginia. As my travelogue above indicates, I was willing to settle for two out of three, but in the end, I found an opportunity that accomplished all three. I feel like I hit the jackpot with my new school. (I wasn’t necessarily committed to boarding schools, but I did see rejoining a residential community as a definite plus. Make it a fourfecta!)

I remember spotting this particular opportunity on the NAIS job board. It was the end of my Spring Break, and I had just completed three campus interviews in three different states in four days, and I was exhausted and ready to put the search in the rear view mirror. Although I liked all of the schools that I visited that week, I vividly remember saying to my wife, “Well, I just found the job I really want.” I submitted my resume, and from there, things moved pretty quickly.

Of course, once I accepted the position, the focus shifted from finding a job to planning a move. That meant making all of the little repairs to our house that suddenly seemed more urgent, interviewing realtors and preparing the house for market, and hiring movers. It also meant figuring out the housing situation here on campus, and paring down our belongings as we moved from a 3BR/2BA house with a deck, a garage, and an attic to a 2BR/2BA apartment with a small porch and no deck or attic. Then it meant shuttling across the North Carolina/Virginia border several times as we painted the new apartment, moved valuable or fragile belongings ourselves, and closed on the sale of our house. (Fortunately, our house sold quickly and relatively painlessly–no small relief given the housing market woes over the last few years.)

Once we were moved in and unpacked (early August), my attention shifted to planning for the school year. I usually spend a significant portion of July pulling together ideas/resources/etc. for the year ahead, so the start to this year felt a little like I was flying blind, but it’s gone OK. (Does this mean that perhaps I don’t have to work quite so hard in the summer anymore? That would be a nice “bonus” after five years in the classroom.)

Anyway, needless to say, there hasn’t been much time for blogging. However, we’re now–more or less–settled into our new place, the school year is rolling along relatively smoothly, and I’ve been itching to write again. Given that I’m back on the dorm duty rotation and will be helping out with JV basketball in addition to baseball, there’s a good chance that the busy season will start in November instead of February. With that in mind, I don’t know how long my regular posts here will last this time around, but I’m looking forward to getting back to using this as a place where I can “wonder aloud” about teaching and education in general.