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Headshot of me with long hair, pink lip stick, light makeup Kara Babcock

Why I’m freelancing

I’m not leaving teaching, but I’ve had my moments. This is my attempt to breathe.

Let’s start with an obvious question: am I leaving teaching? Nope—at least, not yet.

Longtime friends and readers will know that teaching has always been my calling (though, these days, I hesitate to use that term), ever since I was a wee lass. For pretty much my entire adolescent and adult life, I could never entertain any other career.

Then, of course, came the pandemic.

I’m not going to claim educators have had it any worse (or better) than any career. All of us have suffered in our own ways through this pandemic, and I have a lot of privileges that others don’t have. Yet it is undeniable: the pandemic has stressed an already overburdened, underfunded system. It’s happening in the States, and it is happening here in Ontario.

For me, personally, it has manifested not only as burnout but also just a true loss of the joy of teaching, if you will. Even on my “good weeks,” I don’t take any joy in what I do as I used to. I don’t have the energy to come up with fun new lessons, new ways of covering the curriculum as I used to. I don’t celebrate myself as I used to.

This is a scary sensation for anyone mid-career, but especially for someone who has coupled her identity as tightly to her profession as I have. I have always seen myself as a teacher.

So, last year, I pondered this dissatisfaction. I allowed myself, for the first time, to entertain the possibility of a career move. I decided there were many reasons against it (benefits and making mortgage payments being two large ones). At the same time, I knew I needed to do something, take some kind of action. I needed to grow.

So I hit upon the idea of taking editing courses through Queen’s University. I had helped my ride or die finish her dissertation a couple of years ago, but she ended up paying a professional copyeditor to do the final pass through her manuscript. I realized the only difference between me and that copyeditor was industry experience—as a teacher, writer, and language nerd, I had plenty of editing experience. These courses would be a way for me to become more confident and knowledgeable about the industry. Now, 1.5 out of 5 courses finished, and look at me—I’m feeling ready!

Back to the burnout. I have taught (well, lately, marked—but there is still interaction with students involved) summer school for the past 6 years. As an adult and continuing education teacher, unlike regular secondary school teachers, I don’t get paid over the summer unless I work in the summer program. With the aforementioned mortgage to pay, not working has never felt like an option. But I need a summer off. I need some time in which I am not scheduled, some time in which I have the flexibility to relax, reconnect with people, and live my life. If I don’t do this, I’m not sure I can do another September to June.

Which brings me full circle to the freelancing. I feel ready. Yes, I’m not quite done these editing courses yet, but everything I have experienced so far is telling me that I’m ready for what is out there. I will learn, both from the remaining courses and the jobs I take on. But as far as editing goes, I know what I am doing.

So here we go: if I can save up enough money to pay my bills for two months, I can take the summer off teaching (though I will still freelance throughout). That’s my goal. Freelancing is a way of saving my teaching career, if you like. Whatever I can manage beyond this goal is a bonus—I certainly plan to continue freelancing as long as it is manageable, and if that leads to other, fuller opportunities down the road … well, Kara from a year ago would have been aghast at what I’m saying here, but I’m open to it.

If there is one thing that transitioning and then living through a pandemic have taught me, it’s that life throws twists and change at you, and there is nothing to be done but to adapt. I am still a teacher for now. Maybe I won’t be one forever. Either way, I am going to freelance, challenge myself, and look for new opportunities to grow.

If you want to help me out, you can spread the word (or even engage my services). My editing services page has more details for you, like what I can edit and the types of editing I do. It also has my email address and LinkedIn profile—connect with me, contact me, let me know what you need. Share these things with your friends and colleagues—you never know who in your life might need an editor.