So far, the best decision I’ve ever made was to quit my job (where I had tenure) and go back to school to work on my PhD. A mentor/friend told me that his greatest regret in life was not going back to get his PhD in Chemistry. I knew then that if I didn’t try, I would live the rest of my life wondering if I could’ve done it. Did I have the ability, the patience, and/or the determination to see it through this time? Turns out I did, but even if I hadn’t finished, I would know that at least I’d tried and was just too dumb to do it.
The worst decision I’ve ever made was to teach high school in what passes for inner city in this area. No one, absolutely no one cared about this school or these kids other than about half the faculty of the school (I’ve written two posts about two students from this school - the kid who wanted to be a stunt double and the kid who carried the dead squirrel around in his pocket.). I learned a tremendous amount about people and how awful and neglectful they can be. Most of my students’ upbringings were so different from my own. I just had no idea how sheltered I was. It broke my heart every day that I worked there. I had a student that the others called “Dirty Ken” because he rarely took baths. He had scars from where his mother burned him with cigarettes and beat him with a toaster. Just things like that. There were very few mentally and/or emotionally healthy kids at this school. And with my “I can fix everything wrong with everyone” personality flaw, it was very depressing to work there. A day after I accepted the job, I got a call from my university to come back and teach there full-time (I had a master’s at that point). Because I’d promised the high school, I stuck by my promise and declined the job I was used to and knew how to do for working in hell for a year. It was godawful, but in some ways, I’m glad I did it. Even so, it was the worst decision I’ve ever made.