Back to school and other lessons in change

True story: In seventh grade I got horribly lost on my way to class on the second day of fifth period science.

I mean, how embarrassing, right? It's one thing to get lost on your first day, especially on a new campus. But on your second day? GIRL, you already went to that class—how can you not remember where it is?

Oh, but I did get lost and I couldn't remember where the room was for the life of me.

Instead, I circled the hallways like a stupid mouse stuck in an endless maze of lockers, motivational posters and gleaming industrial tile.

I could have asked someone for help, of course, but the longer I walked and the more unfamiliar everything looked the more terrified of everything I became. At some point, about halfway through this fruitless journey, I ended up in a bathroom stall crying and waiting out the bell.

Somehow I found my way to class the next day—I honestly have no recollection of how I made that happen because by that point I was too mortified to tell anyone what had happened. Fortunately, the instructor didn't ask me for an absence excuse and the class even ended up being one of my favorites, but that hour I spent searching, circling, hiding and crying is forever burned into my memory.

I had a long, painful flashback to that moment this week as I searched, fruitlessly, for my class. Only this time I was the teacher, not the student.

This time I had asked for help—a nice woman at an information desk—but now as I clutched the map she'd marked up for me and stared at the names of buildings I felt that long-ago kernel of mortifying fear in the pit of my stomach. I couldn't find the class, I was going to be late; I'd end up hiding in a bathroom stall, crying.

Last week I started a new job as a full-time journalism professor at American River College. And, simply put, it proved to be one of the most challenging weeks of my life in recent years. As it turns out essentially changing careers is not easy.

Well, kind of changing careers anyway. I'm still a journalist but, now, instead of working in a professional newsroom I'll be on a college campus working with students on the college newspaper, teaching classes and, hopefully, getting to know the lay of the land both literally and figuratively.

It all happened pretty fast. I had my first job interview in December and the second one just over two weeks ago. I received the job offer the next day. Long story short(ish), I had only 10 days to give notice at my job and prepare for classes.

The whole thing has been exciting but, also, terrifying. Change can be terrifying even it's something you want. This is something I've wanted for a long time. I've been teaching part-time since 2008 and have long thought about making it a full-time occupation. Having goals turn into reality is a little scary (OK, really scary) but I think I'm ready for the challenge. I love being in the classroom—though I will admit the actual reality of teaching a full load has caught me a bit off guard. Note to self: Time to consider shopping for cute old lady orthopedic shoes. I'm sorry, lower back—we're in this together.

I'm still at SN&R in the interim, helping with the transition as they look for a new editor. Truth be told, I'm having somewhat of a difficult time, emotionally anyway, taking leave of the place where I've worked for nearly the last eight years. I had a bit of a gentle shock when I came in one afternoon after class to work and catch up with the rest of the newsroom only to realize they'd planned for a writers meeting without me.

Oh, OK, that's cool I guess.

Is this like empty nest syndrome only I'm the bird leaving the tree, feeling unmoored even as they continue on at home without me?

And what a time to be a journalist, what a time to leave the newsroom.

But what's that about 'you can take the girl out of the newsroom, but ..." Yeah, that. I'll still be contributing to SN&R in some capacity. It has been part of my life in one way or another since I was in college. It's family to me, which means I'll happily remain co-dependent for as long as they'll have me. Whatever happens, the staff is whip smart as hell and doing an ace job. I have nothing but confidence that they'll continue to put out a kickass paper that will serve the community well in these fucked-up, troubling times.

In the meantime I'll be trying to find my way around a new campus, madly prepping for classes so the students don't think I'm a moron, popping ibuprofen for my back and, eventually I hope, figuring out a magic 15-minute window during which I might actually be able to scarf down something more than an energy bar.

By the way, I did find that class eventually—on time even. It was located in a building that was named something entirely different than what was on the map. Details, details.

No hiding, no tears—I'll consider it a victory for me and my seventh grade self.


Congratulations, Rachel! You're a great teacher, writer, editor. Your students (and your readers) are blessed. Many of my CSUS journalism/communications students have begun at ARC and the Current, so I owe a debt of gratitude. I know you will continue the tradition, expand on it, adapting to this brave (and often daunting) New Media world, with all its challenges -- and tremendous rewards.

All best, Sigrid
Twitter: @sigridbathen

Congratulations, Rachel, and congratulations to students who find themselves in your classroom, ready to get well grounded in the demands and challenges of today's journalism.

Great News Rachel ... A full time new profession that your lifetime and lifeline has led to as if it was choosing its own path. " Don't Look Back!! " BYE BYE SN&R ... there is strength in leaving w/ all eyes open. All The BEST!!

Bravo, you, for making the HUGE leap into full-time teaching. It has been my honor to work alongside you at City College, co-advising the Express, as you taught other classes for us. And you're right--what a time to be leaving a newsroom, news-wise. But oh, what a time to be teaching journalism and influencing those who will succeed you in the business. They are so lucky to benefit from your experience and wisdom! Go, Current!

Definitely a year for big changes. Congratulations!

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