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Dec. 6, 2022

From Public to Private: This Teacher's Story of Finding Fulfillment | Jackie Scully

Jackie Scully reflects on her decision to leave her teaching job in Hawaii during the recession to return to Pennsylvania, only to find the job market for teachers just as difficult.

"I was kicking myself. I was like, what did I do? This is not the life I want to live.”


Jackie Scully reflects on her decision to leave her teaching job in Hawaii during the recession to return to Pennsylvania, only to find the job market for teachers just as difficult.

"I was kicking myself. I was like, what did I do? This is not the life I want to live.”

Jackie is a former public school teacher who now teaches at a private school. She has experience teaching in the public school system in Hawaii and Pennsylvania.

In this episode, you will learn the following:

-The frustrations Jackie experienced with the public school system, specifically during the No Child Left Behind era

-The impact of the recession on the public school system in Hawaii and the consequent mass exodus of teachers

-The challenges Jackie faced in trying to find a teaching job in the public school system after moving back to Pennsylvania

 

Jackie went to public schools and always felt quite lost in them. So she went to college, became a teacher, and then worked in the public school system in Hawaii. Although she loved Hawaii, when the recession hit, things changed. Teachers' salaries were cut, and many of her friends, who were also teachers, left the state. She also made the difficult decision to leave, moving back in with her parents in Pennsylvania. She couldn't find a teaching job there, so she moved to Maryland with her then-fiancé. She finally found a teaching job at a private school in Wilmington, DE. It was a much different experience than teaching in public schools, and she loved it.

 

Jackie Scully is an experienced History/Psychology Teacher, Creator/Host of The Teacher Story, which features her own story and teacher interviews. She is also the Co-founder of The Teacher Circle LinkedIn group, a global community to support teachers and others in education. She aims to elevate teacher voices and others in education and put them at the forefront of the education reform movement.

 

To connect with Jackie:

The Teacher's Story Podcast: https://linktr.ee/theteacherstory

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacquelynscully/

 

Other episodes you'll enjoy:

From a Dream to Building a Reality in America | Mathilde Bernard Funderburk

 

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Twitter: www.twitter.com/thelifeshiftpod

Website: www.thelifeshiftpodcast.com

 

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Transcript

Transcription


[Jackie Scully]


So not to go all the way back to childhood, but just to look at this shift. I went to a very big public school. I graduated with 900 students. I felt very lost in high school.


[Matt Gilhooly]


900.


[Jackie Scully]


It's ridiculous. The big football school. I'm not a sports kid, so if you weren't in sports in some way, if you weren't, like, in the big musical, there really wasn't anything for you. So I just kind of, like, dived into my studies, and then I went to a state school for college, and then I taught in public school. So getting more into leading into that life shift. My first full time teaching position was in Hawaii, and that was the public school system as well. Great experience.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Sounds nice.


[Jackie Scully]


Loved it. And it was, you know, I'm in my 20s. I'm like, I don't care. Yes, I'm in Hawaii. I don't care how poor I am. Living with a bunch of roommates and just living off of, like, ramen. Still from college. You're still living that dorm life, but you're in your mid 20s because it's just you're a teacher in Hawaii. It's very expensive, but you went to the beach, went hiking. There was tons to do, just out in nature, not spending any money. And I taught at a school that was an immigrant community, mostly students from the Philippines and from Samoa. And then we had other students who were from various islands in the Pacific and some from Hawaii as well. And it was a very poor community at that time. We were in the no Child Left Behind time period, and we were restructuring school. There was so many horrible things about this whole no Child Left Behind and the whole way of, like, these top schools, restructuring, failing schools, all the labels. I worked with the most amazing principal. I worked with unbelievable colleagues. And the students were they weren't always in the best behavior, but in middle school, too, right? Middle school. But they were really good kids. It was a good school, but on paper, it was a restructuring school because of test scores. And we had a lot of ESL students, and so they had to take the same test as the other kids as long as they've been in America, in Hawaii, for a year. They weren't proficient in English, and they didn't have the preparation for these types of standardized testing. We would spend weeks preparing them for tests. Then they would take the test, like, over a week span, and then we'd have to go back and look at the results and then see where we fall. It's always restructuring. And then the school has to pay for some professional development company or what not to come in and do a whole like, this is what we're doing this year. Here's a program this year, and then that program would cut into your teaching time. So, like, for instance, in the social studies department, I'm all for reading programs and embedding that in all the humanities. But we had to go once a week to the library and get on this online program that the school had to buy as part of their thing they were doing that year that literally had nothing to really do with our curriculum. It would take all this time out of the classroom. You wanted to work on something like a project and now you got to go do this. Very, very frustrating. Not the school's fault, not even the state's fault. This was a national program.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Oh yeah, I have lots to say about no Child Left Behind, but we're not going to talk about that here. But I mean, I feel like it changed so much that we're still feeling the effects of now for sure. Maybe that's something we talk about on the teacher's story. But I feel like it sounds like this moment in time, it's like all these outside forces are now telling you to do all these things that are not serving the purpose that you're there for. Right? I came here to teach them about what were you teaching? History.


[Jackie Scully]


I was teaching 8th grade American history, 7th grade Hawaiian history.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Oh, that's cool. But half of your time was eaten up by going to the library and using this tool that was not valuable or teaching to a test that at the end of the day is not going to Matter. It's not going to advance their learning or any of those moments. And this is not frustrating, right? Exactly. They hate school enough. Let's help them get to a place in which they enjoy. Or I'm sure as a teacher, I mean, I know a lot of teachers are super passionate about their topics, but when you're told you have to do things in a certain way, did that eat at you?


[Jackie Scully]


Yes, it did. Very much so. And like everyone that was part of this and the fact that it was like a new program every year, it's just there was no consistency. It wasn't like seeing something through long term to see the growth and the results. It just felt so kitschy. Like it just felt like, well, we're at this position, we're restructuring, so we got to do this. And it also aid into our faculty time. Like we had to get training on that and often feeling like we don't even want to do this. So when you're feeling like something is being forced upon you and the whole kind of point of going into teaching is to be a creator, to create curriculum that you are passionate about and then you're like being told to do something that's going to cut into that and your hands are tied, it's really frustrating. And it didn't work. The test results weren't getting any better. It wasn't working.


[Matt Gilhooly]


It's just like constant band AIDS trying to plug a hole in a boat.


[Jackie Scully]


Yep. So then the recession hit. So this is kind of like leading us closer to that life shift. The 2008, the recession didn't really feel the full impact until maybe like 2009 into 2010 in Hawaii because most of the economy is based on tourism. So tourism really slowed down at that time. And one of the first big cuts with education, it is an estate program. So when I got hired, I wasn't hired by the school or school district. I was hired by the state of Hawaii. So it's a huge, huge publicly funded program. So they cut the teacher's salary. I think it was like around 10% at one point. It was like a huge cut. I was fortunate to keep my job, but there were so many teachers that they lost their jobs. They were just have there's so many teachers that were leaving. So there was a lot of recruitment when I went there. So a lot of teachers from the mainland, a lot of them are like, you know what, I'm going back home or I'm going to another state. And so between like 2010 and 2011, it was just like all of these teachers that I also became friends with and knew were leaving. So I came to this really difficult decision. It was like late 2010. I'm like now kind of alone, like, my friends are leaving people. I mean, it felt it just felt like this whole huge crisis was coming upon us.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Plus your job was no longer fun for what you signed up for.


[Jackie Scully]


Yes, you're doing all of these things that aren't working now. They're cutting your pay. I was living by myself, so I'm paying for everything by myself. And just everything was changing. So I had to go to my principal and say, you know what, I'm just going to go back to Pennsylvania. That's where I'm from. My mom was also sick at the time. I also missed so many things in my family, like weddings. But another big part is I missed three funerals back to back. So we had a devastating loss on my mom side of the family where her aunt, her uncle, and her cousin all died in like two months span. It was like tragic. And this was like before I made this decision. But I'm like, I'm not around for any of these license. So my principal totally understood and obviously teachers are leaving, but he gave me this opportunity or option of we will get a longterm sub for one year. We'll hold your position if you decide a year from now. Because I was there for five years, I was really committed to the school and to living in Hawaii. He's like, we will have your job open for you a year from now. Rare, that does not happen ever. It was amazing. And so I did accept that as an option and said, I will definitely let you know by early spring of the following year if that is something I want to do if I want to come back. So I moved back to Pennsylvania in June 2011. And it was awful. It was an awful, awful year. I moved back in with my parents. So, again, I am super independent. I've been out of my home since 18. Between living in college and then literally moving to Hawaii, and, you know, I couldn't find a job. I couldn't find a teaching job, like, a decent one. And I started to apply and go into interviews. Like, the whole summer of 2011 into the fall of 2011. All I was trying to get a full time job. I was getting, like, you can be a sub here. Here's a parttime role here where you might teach at the beginning of the day and the end of the day, so you can't really work another job.


[Matt Gilhooly]


So we're sitting there like, why did I leave Hawaii? You're like, I had a stable thing. It wasn't the greatest, but it's better than this.


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah, I was kicking myself. I was like, what did I do? This is not the life I want to live. I was living at home with my parents. I didn't have a fulltime job. I took a full time job in retail since that's what I did when I was in college.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Everyone should do retail, by the way.


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Like, everyone should work in retail and or a restaurant. This is off topic, but I think just to learn humanity and learn how to treat other people when you're in these places.


[Jackie Scully]


I actually really enjoyed it. I mean, the highlight of that year? Well, two things. I went back to school to get my Masters because I might as well, right? Because I never had the ability to do that in Hawaii because I couldn't afford it. And I had multiple jobs in Hawaii to live there, so I had no time. But I worked at a jewelry store, and I really liked it. It was like a high end jewelry store, and basically most of what I sold was engagement rings.


[Matt Gilhooly]


That's fun. All coming in for happy reasons until you tell them the price.


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah. Or it gets returned.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Yeah.


[Jackie Scully]


It didn't work out for you. I'm so sorry. In Pennsylvania, it was like a factory of teachers just coming out of college. Like, it's not like what it is now. It was like so many teachers looking for jobs. Like, people wanted to get into teaching. At least in that area. They were either in school substituting, whether they were building some long term sub, new people, anyone who is getting the full time roles, they were in the school already doing something. So even though I'm from Pennsylvania, even though I had some connections, I went on interviews and made it advanced through. And ultimately, a lot of the times the position went to someone who was already in the school in some degree. So I felt like, this isn't I don't know if I'm going to be able to get a job in like, a decent public school. Yeah, I could have gotten a job at some other schools that maybe I just knew were going to be super challenging, or the salary was super low, and I just didn't want to do that and know that I was probably quit in like a year. In my master's program, as I advanced through it, you had to be in the classroom. So I'm like, I'm not in the classroom. I was doing substitute work, but that wasn't like, what I have to do.


[Matt Gilhooly]


You were developing curriculum and yeah, this is project based.


[Jackie Scully]


I was just like, I don't know what to do. I have to finish this program. I'm committed to it, I'm paying for it, and I just don't know if I'm ever going to get that public school job. And so I was engaged before, so I'm married now, but I was engaged to someone else before. And we moved to Maryland, the top of Maryland, and it's still not too far away from I lived in southeastern Pennsylvania because he got a job in Maryland. He was also a teacher. And so we moved there. And for that summer, this is 2013, I was still trying to get them a public school job in Maryland. And it was the same.


[Matt Gilhooly]


So you were doing that for like two years.


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah, it was the same thing. Couldn't find it to public school in Maryland for history. It's really he was teaching math, math, science, special education. You're going to find a job. And I wanted to stay in history and social studies. I did get an English certificate as well, so I could teach English, but really my background is history, so that's what I wanted to teach. Then got this ping, got this idea to just look at private schools. I don't know why it took that long to come to me. I just didn't have that experience.


[Matt Gilhooly]


I think you can assume that the known entity is like, the easier path. Right. If you've gone through public school, K through twelve, and then you go to a big public school and the experience in a public school and having larger classes and things like that, I feel like that's the natural draw. But so what happened when you kind of this new world, a private school?


[Jackie Scully]


What happened was at the very top of Maryland, so not too far away, like half hour, 40 minutes, is Wilmington, Delaware. And Wilmington, Delaware, has a ton of private schools. So Delaware doesn't have a strong public school system. They don't have sales tax. They have low taxes in general. So we all know taxes fund schools. There's a lot of equity in public schools because it's all due to taxes. So there's a lot of private schools. I never was around a lot of private schools because the schools that I grew up in, southeastern Pennsylvania, the public schools, they were great. They were strong schools. So I went online and I was just looking at any kind of private schools in the Delaware area, and I came across the school, Ursula Academy. And it was like a career builder, indeed, one of those job platforms. And I could just email my resume. Okay, so another process in Pennsylvania, and I'm sure a lot of other places in the country, because there were so many candidates looking for teaching jobs in these public schools, they created a system where you had to go online, you had to sign up on this portal. You had to fill out like a 30 page application. You had to write essays. It was ridiculous. You had to upload everything, even your.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Transcripts, and not get a call, and.


[Jackie Scully]


They'Re not going to call. And it was exhausting. It would take hours to apply. This was like email. You were like, yeah, just email your resume. Email, I think, couple letter letters, recommendation, that's it. And I got a call like a few days later. It was like, bam, bam.


[Matt Gilhooly]


And then, did you get that job?


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah. So I interviewed and then it was like a week later I got the job. What also helped is it was in the summer, so there was also, like, the need to get this process moving. So that's why I kind of moved so fast and I started that job engaged. And it was funny, like, during teacher orientation, because, yes, teachers go through orientation just to get to know the school, but they're like, you know, share something personal in your life. And I was like, oh, I'm engaged. It was like a month into the school year. I'm like, oh, I'm not engaged.


[Matt Gilhooly]


No, no, you were the one returning that ring.


[Jackie Scully]


I was. I know. And that was my job before, which was so funny that I've experienced that. So, yeah, I didn't work out. We're the best. Absolutely. For the best. And it was like a mutual decision. It just wasn't going to work out. But kind of interesting how kismet this was that this job became this new opportunity, and it gave me my independence. Like I needed to I moved to Maryland. I was able to commute there, but then I ended up moving up to Wilmington, Delaware. I loved it. I mean, I couldn't believe I would love it so much because it's also it's an allgirl Catholic school. I had no idea what this was going to be like. And I was teaching AP psychology for the first time. And in the interview, I remember they asked me, you've taught history. You've taught basically all of just social studies. And this is like the science, but it's still in social sciences and social studies departments. Remember they asked, how do you feel teaching Apsychology since you don't have that experience? I was like, I taught Hawaiian history coming from Pennsylvania, two kids who are like, part Hawaiian in the moment, so I feel like I can tackle it. I also had a lot of psychology within my coursework, so I felt strong in certain areas of that class. I just loved it. The community was so beautiful. I've never experienced anything like that tight knit.


[Matt Gilhooly]


What was so different about the job?


[Jackie Scully]


Well, the pay was low.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Did you have to abide by the no child left behind stuff that you were experiencing? So it was all self contained? You were able to actually do the job that you always wanted to do?


[Jackie Scully]


Yes. So the curriculum was AP psychology and, like, a world regional history, which essentially an AP class is kind of, like, written for you, and then you can just kind of make it your own with projects and assessments, but you have to follow, like, certain units. You have to COVID the other course. I literally could rewrite myself. Like, I could create curriculum. And there was no state testing, and we weren't under no tales behind at that time, the common core was big in schools, which transformed a lot of subjects. I know there were a lot of people really upset with how math was being taught. We didn't have common core. We didn't have to do any of that. It was purely independent. We weren't even part of the archdiocese, so as a catholic school, we were still very, very independent. So we had a lot of flexibility in how we could teach the curriculum. Classes were smaller.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Right. And you're able to teach, like, actually have the experience of helping others learn something that they're supposed to learn, instead of, can you pass this test and forget all the information tomorrow?


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah. And they were, for the most part. Some students were kind of probably like their parents just wanted them to go there, but there were students who really wanted to be there. There was a lot of motivation. They were really great students, like, high achieving students, small classes. And since ursula academy is part of this network of schools, there's Ursulin schools throughout the world. There's like a hundred. There was global education in our school, so we were able to I only experienced one trip, but there were trips each year to different ursula schools throughout the world. Our school went to south Africa, peru, dallas, texas, France.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Kind of like an exchange kind of thing.


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah, it was so cool. So it wasn't like a full exchange for, like, a whole year. I think that might have happened with some students, but it was like a week or two you would go, and that student would live with a family, and then, like, the following year, they tried to do it. Where then that family, that student would come to our school and they're like, yay, wilmington, delaware.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Which you would never see in a public schools setting.


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah.


[Matt Gilhooly]


And so for the first time in many, many years, you probably enjoyed your daytime.


[Jackie Scully]


I did I really did more.


[Matt Gilhooly]


And I'm thinking the end of your Hawaiian experience. You were going through your day not enjoying it, and then you would come home and all your friends had left because they all lost their job. So it was like there's no redeeming side of your day. I know you mentioned this personal issue that the end of an engagement at this beginning of that was the daytime serving that grief or redevelopment of your personal life.


[Jackie Scully]


Yes, absolutely. I really think this job came into my life, this position, at the right time, because, say, we decided to break off the engagement and I had moved to Maryland, had no job, you know, where I'd be back again, my family's home. And at that point, I was like 31.


[Matt Gilhooly]


So this job was really like a reset in your life to kind of trigger a new version of you. I'm assuming you're still in a private school, but you're not in Delaware.


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah, I am still in a private school, but I'm in New Jersey.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Still private, still kind of this journey is how has it changed from when you first started in a private school to where you are now? Is there commonalities or what's your life like now that private school is filling your cup or does it not?


[Jackie Scully]


So I moved because I got married and then I did a new marriage.


[Matt Gilhooly]


For one year, new engagement, and the new person. Okay.


[Jackie Scully]


Yes. And I did the commute for one year from New Jersey to Wilmington, Delaware, which really doesn't sound like all these states are very close together.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Exactly.


[Jackie Scully]


It was over an hour. And on the bad weather days, like in the winter, there was one day that kind of pushed me over of like, I gotta look for something in New Jersey. So there was a snowstorm coming in, but it was coming in at the end of the school day and we didn't get out early. I don't know why they didn't make the call. It took me three and a half hours to get home.


[Matt Gilhooly]


I've been there when I lived in Boston, it was like I worked 20 miles away and it took me 90 minutes to get home on a good day, so I understand that. And it's funny too, for anyone that doesn't live in the Northeast, anywhere but the Northeast, pretty much it takes a long time to go from one state to another. Whereas in the Northeast, you can go from like, Massachusetts to Rhode Island to Connecticut all in like an hour or yeah, yeah.


[Jackie Scully]


I'm, like, constantly in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Like, four states all the time.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Right. And I'm in Florida. It's like 4 hours to get to another state.


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah, I know. Maybe imagine being in Texas or California. Like, I'm just here forever.


[Matt Gilhooly]


I don't want to be in Texas.


[Jackie Scully]


No, I don't think anybody likes to be in Texas. So I was like, I got to try it out. I got to just try. And I was like, in my mind, I will only move if it's like the same type of school. Like, not it has to be an all girl Catholic school, but same vibe or a step up in some way. If I couldn't find it, I was going to do that commute. Okay. Because I really loved it.


[Matt Gilhooly]


But you're fulfilled in the sense that you're finally a teacher.


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah, I just loved it. I mean, the pay was lower than I knew in New Jersey would pay higher because our taxes are higher. It's just one little state over. It's a big jump.


[Matt Gilhooly]


But you can't pump your own gas.


[Jackie Scully]


You can't pump your own gas, which I don't mind, because in the winter when it's freezing out, I'm like, hey, I get to sit in my car, and I don't have to pump. But it is really weird.


[Matt Gilhooly]


It is odd.


[Jackie Scully]


Very weird.


[Matt Gilhooly]


When I was a kid this is off topic, but when I was a kid, we drove through New Jersey. The two things I remember is that you can't pump your own gas and its mouth. Wherever we were in New Jersey, I think by the dump, kind of by New York, there was a dump there. And I was like, that's all I know of New Jersey. They won't let you out of your car at the gas station. And it's not but I'm sure it's better now.


[Jackie Scully]


I mean, North, New Jersey. I mean, I'm in southern New Jersey. It's not a stinky. Philadelphia is pretty stinky, but it's right over there. But another thing about Jersey that's weird, so many weird things about New Jersey. I can say that I'm not from New Jersey. My husband's not from New Jersey. We have no, like, ties to, like, New Jersey in that way, but they have so many roundabouts. It's really, really it's a New England.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Thing, though, I think. Is it because I'm from Boston area, and there's lots of we call them Rotaries, and then Europe has a lot of them, too. I don't know if you've ever been to Ireland. It's like every street has a roundabout. But anyway, back to your story of finding something in New Jersey.


[Jackie Scully]


So this is kind of an interesting kind of Kismet thing that happened, too. Just like the Ursulin one, but I would say even more so. I just got my license in New Jersey, so you have to have a different teaching license in each state. I was like, you know what? Let me just have it just in case. Maybe I do find a really great public school. And I go back to that. It's not what I wanted, but just as a safety net. So I got that, and it was like, February 2018. We're at my husband's parents house, my mother in law and father in laws, and we're visiting in February. And I don't know we were just, like, just chitchatting on the couch. And my motherinlaw says, so is there, like a school that you have in mind? I know you're kind of looking. And I was like, I walked past this school in Morristown, and it's a friend school. I don't really know anything about friends schools, but it looks really nice, and it looks like, you know, maybe that would be, like, an interesting kind of new independent school experience. And she's like, well, do you want to go and see if they have jobs on their website? I'm like it's. February. I don't have jobs, like this early. Usually it's like, springtime. She's like, Why not just go and check? And it was all prompted by her. And I also had a really close relationship with her. Like, she definitely was like my own mom to me. So we went and we looked on the website, and sure enough, there was upper school history, like, right there.


[Matt Gilhooly]


What's the chances?


[Jackie Scully]


So what's going on? This is crazy.


[Matt Gilhooly]


And that's close by, right? Because you said you walked by it.


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah, it was really close at the time. Like, we moved later on and just a little further out. Like, it's like a 25 minutes commute now, but at the time, it was like a five minute commute. It was, like, down the road from our apartment complex. I think it was Presidents Day weekend. But we had the Monday off, so I was like, I'm just getting all my stuff together. I'm applying for this job. So I applied, got it in that Friday, I was actually at a funeral for a student's parent. I just checked my phone afterwards, and I got a call from the school to come in for an interview. I'm like, okay, this is kind of crazy. And the interview was the next Monday. So it was like Friday. I got the call. They're like, can you come in Monday? So for some reason, I thought it was like, for that school year still, maybe someone just left and I wouldn't be able to do it. I wasn't going to leave my other job. I was still at Ursulin because I'm like, Why are they doing this so quickly? They just do things very early at the school. So I went on a Monday. It was such a neat interview experience. I've never had this. It wasn't like, sit down, meet with all the administration. It was almost a full day. So I took the day off from work, and I met with, like, the head of school, assistant head of school. Gave me a tour of the whole campus. I met with the department chair, a couple people in the department. I met with the head of the theology department because a friend's school is also religious. I met with a diversity director. I had lunch, I think, with the diversity director. They have a beautiful dining hall, and so I got to have lunch. Everything was conversational. It wasn't even like, hi, I'm interviewing you. Here are the questions. It was, like, conversation, and isn't that.


[Matt Gilhooly]


How interviews should be? I mean, we know that you're qualified, right? You've had all this teaching experience. You have your master's degree, you have your undergraduate degree. All that's proven, right? We can look that up, and someone will confirm that. But the humanity part of it, especially probably for a private school, right? You need to have the right type of demeanor that you fit in that space, because it's more of a smaller and more, I guess, like a family or community type feel.


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah. And it's not like just looking at your resume and what you've done. I think they do it in that style, which, again, I didn't have that experience at the other school. This is very different. But they want to see where you fit into this culture, and sometimes it's not a thing. I mean, sometimes you can't figure it.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Out, but it's good to know. It's good to try to get to that space. My most favorite of interviews and jobs that I've had are, like, what you describe, and it's a conversation. It's not like, if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be? Like, well, what is that going to tell you, really? But let me talk. Tell me about your experiences. Tell me about this. Here's what we do here. How do you feel about that? Having these real conversations, kind of like we do on our podcast, like, this gives us more a sense of how you're going to fit into the space. Then here's my 30 page application for your school. Here's my essay that I've proofread 400 times. So it says nothing like I would normally would say it, right? I used to teach, like, a business related class, and we would talk about interviewing, and my prompt was always like, what is the one thing you're not in an interview? And my answer to them, because they would say all these things. That wasn't really where I was going, but my answer was yourself, because I think we were always so conditioned to be, like, so buttoned up, so rehearsed. So that's refreshing to hear that schools, or at least private schools or the ones you're at, is doing that.


[Jackie Scully]


That's what I really was frustrated with the public school experience I had when I was trying to find a job in Pennsylvania. It took me back to high school. I felt like, lost, like, a number. Nobody was getting to know me. I was hundreds of applicants, right?


[Matt Gilhooly]


Because everyone, they're really just looking for what's on the paper. How does it fit? How low can their salary be?


[Jackie Scully]


I would share these really beautiful stories I had in Hawaii, and it was kind of like, yeah, it wasn't appreciated until I went to independent school, when the principal at Ursula Academy called my principal in Hawaii and she was like, I had the most amazing conversation with your principal in Hawaii, and that just solidified. We're hiring this person. And it was human connection. It wasn't like you're on a conveyor belt, and it was such a blessing to make this shift. And so I've been at this school now, it's my fifth year. And very similar to the other school in that it's small classes, it's religious, but it's different. I actually really got into Quakerism. I'm not a Quaker. Like, I'm not going to go to meeting on Sundays, but I really do like Quakerism and the way it's kind of infused in our curriculum and in our school culture. And it's all about like it's really about simplicity, and it's about taking time to deeply reflect on things. And when we go to meeting on Wednesdays in the meeting house, which is like this super old meeting house is like, hundreds of years old, it just smells like history. It's just so cool to be in the space. You just sit. You just sit, and it's just quiet for like 40 minutes. And if you feel like you want to talk about something, you stand. And it could be anything, just like anything you want to talk about. No one responds. You just have that space.


[Matt Gilhooly]


How big is that school? Like, how many students?


[Jackie Scully]


So it's a three division school. We have pre K to twelve. So I want to say in the upper school, so nine to twelve is about 370 students or something around there, something like that.


[Matt Gilhooly]


So a lot smaller than the high school you went to.


[Jackie Scully]


Each class is like 70. Each graduate class is like 70. 70 to 80.


[Matt Gilhooly]


That's very small. Significantly smaller.


[Jackie Scully]


So small. So I really get to know the students. I get to know the faculty, because our departments are obviously very small, too. We don't have these huge departments.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Would you say that you just mentioned human Connection? Would you say that's the biggest difference between teaching at a public school and a private school with what you can do now is that you can I mean, I'm sure in a public school you're able to make a human connection with your students, but it's not as authentic as maybe it is now.


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah, no, I absolutely, 100% it is about the culture, too, because I will say and I did some teaching, like substitute, like long term substitute work in Pennsylvania right before I went to Hawaii, so I can kind of compare the two public school systems. It is the culture, too. I felt connected with the kids in Hawaii. I had so many. I think I had like 150 on my roster, and so now I have like, 50. It's totally different.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Were you ever, like, apologizing for the way that you had to distribute the content to the students? Like, I really want to do it this way, but I'm sorry, we have to do it this way.


[Jackie Scully]


Sometimes. Yeah, I mean, I did have some wiggle room because I taught a gifted class, so we had a gifted program, and so there were for each course subject. So, I mean, I had some more room to grow and develop my curriculum there, but for the other classes, yeah, it definitely felt like kind of my hands were tied and couldn't do as much. And when you have 35 students in a class like I had, 35 was my biggest at one point. I just felt like I couldn't really give them the attention and really fully get to know them as a person, too.


[Matt Gilhooly]


They become closer to a number than a human without you intending to do that. But especially when you have all the requirements of you from the federal government telling you a certain way, or you have to teach to a test, or you have to do all these things that are not what you signed up for. How many students do you have now in a class?


[Jackie Scully]


So I have anywhere from ten to 18.


[Matt Gilhooly]


So you know them very well.


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah, I know them very well. And this is a new role. They might have it in some public schools, but I'm an advisor, so we also have time built into the week where we meet with a small group. So I have ten advisors, and we basically become like a little family, and we get to know each other. I'm there to support them academically. We go over their classes right, how they're doing and everything. But then we also connect as a group, and I really like that, too, because it gives you another sense of this even smaller community. So it was all of these great parts of the private school system, and this one in particular obviously was challenged during the pandemic, so we lost all of that.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Do you think it was different, though? I mean, I know you've had a lot of conversations with public school teachers and people around the world. Do you feel that you had a different experience as someone that works in a private school versus those in the public system? Like a better experience?


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah, better experience. I mean, it's still really challenging, but part of doing the podcast and talking to these teachers all over, it made me reflect on, oh, my gosh, I didn't go through any of that. We were virtual right away, which was really hard to do, but we were virtual in March. We had school. I mean, it was on Zoom, but we had school for the rest of the school year, and we had grace period. Like, if the students didn't do well that last quarter, that grade didn't count. I talked to teachers where they were still having to hold all the kids accountable and give the grade that they earned in the height of the pandemic.


[Matt Gilhooly]


And I think, too, there's this I mean, because you have this human connection with these students, ten to 18 students. You know them, they know you. There's this reciprocity of respect and understanding. I feel like someone in your situation might also have just better luck. Students showing up and doing their work still and feeling like she's expecting me to participate, and she's expecting, I owe her this. Whereas in public schools, when you're just a number, the teacher doesn't care about me. I don't even know the teacher's last name. It's just my teacher. So I wonder if that also feeds into why you had a little bit more success than what others have gone through.


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah, I didn't think about that until right now, so thank you for that. We still had the struggles of, like, turning on the camera. And of course, there were some students who really just weren't able to do anything. And we did have internet issues with some students too, but for the most part, they showed up and they were working and they were connecting. I will actually say I didn't mind virtual school in the spring of 2020. A couple of things. I was at home, so I got to wear, like, my yoga pants. I got to have more time to eat a proper lunch, to go on a walk. Like, my schedule felt like a little lighter, in a way. It was a lot of prep work for all the technology, but once you got into a rhythm, it just felt like a little lighter. I didn't have to commute all of that, but also not just lifestyle wise. When there were really hard things to talk about, the students opened up. We connected. It wasn't just teacher student. It was like, we are humans going through a really difficult time, and we're connecting and vibing in that way. That's kind of where I lost a little bit. Now that we're kind of just back to school regularly. Like, I enjoyed that so much. I saw students really caring for one another, caring for you. As an adult, I was, like, having more time to really connect with them. I started doing this check in at the beginning of class on a Google form, and many of them would just, like, pour themselves out on it, like, just questions about how they're doing. And I still kind of do it now, and they're like, Eh, I'm good. You know what I mean? So it felt like they had a space to really want to be connecting with each other. It was great in that way.


[Matt Gilhooly]


So what do you think that switching from public to private has changed about you personally, not about your teaching, not about anything? What has that pivot in your life? What have you learned about yourself from that?


[Jackie Scully]


I think I've become more of a human teacher. I know that sounds weird. I feel like when I was teaching before, it was like, I have to be the expert, right? And I have to do all these things, and I need to. It was definitely still the I'm your teacher, you're the student. Right. And there wasn't a lot of other, like, part of that relationship. Like, I assign new things. I agreed, yeah, we can have some banter. We can laugh especially.


[Matt Gilhooly]


It was more transactional.


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah. I learn from my students, and I tell them that I am more transparent as a teacher than I've ever been before. I think the pandemic has been part of that. I open up to them to share things, like how teachers do things and what we're going through behind the scenes, and they really respect that. I asked for their feedback not only in the class, but just in general with what's going on in the school, what's going on in the community. And I'm not as scared to have.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Difficult conversations with people other than students.


[Jackie Scully]


Well, actually, I could do it better with students than some adults, but I wouldn't have done that, I think, in public school. I don't know. I think it's easier also with smaller classes.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Do you think you're a different human, though, because of it? Do you think that your relationships outside of work are different? Do you think there's anything that kind of bleeds into your other part of your human experience?


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah, I think I spend more time really getting to know people and spend time listening to them, especially now, having this advisor role and thinking more deeply about my connections with people. This school, particularly, is a very rigorous school. And not just, like, rigorous. We just have all these AP classes. We have that, too. But you really push, like, critical thinking to, like, the next level, and these students are there. So it has really challenged me to dive in deeper into my curriculum and do more with it than just, like, okay, I covered these units, or I covered this time periods in history.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Yeah. So, I mean, it sounds like private school has just made you a better teacher. It's made you someone that cares more because you're allowed to care more, and there's the freedom to do all the things that younger you probably thought teaching was. So thank you to private schools, right, for your students. So I love to kind of wrap up these calls with a question, and I'm thinking that you can choose either one. So there's your option to if current Jackie could go back to Hawaiian recession Jackie and tell her something about the journey that she's about to go on, what would you say or what would you say to someone that's kind of figuring out where they should send their students to learn? Should they go to public school? What's better? So however you want to answer whichever one you want.


[Jackie Scully]


I'll start with the first one because I kind of like both questions. I would tell myself the Jackie in Hawaii, that life isn't this, like, perfect package or, like, linear timeline to hit this this it's messy, but that's, like, part of it, right? And when you go through some really challenging times, and then you get to the other side, it is so sweet, and it's going to get there. It might take some time, but it's going to get there.


[Matt Gilhooly]


So I would say that, like, trust the process. Trust understand that there are reasons why certain things I mean, I don't think you would value your experience now as much had you not been frustrated with the public school system and what you were experiencing at the time. I feel like it makes this much sweeter because you went through that. So I always think that too, with other guests, we talk about, like, these harder moments in our lives are actually what makes our lives so cool now.


[Jackie Scully]


Yes, absolutely. You really can't appreciate your life unless you go through struggle. You have to really you got to see both sides of it. And I don't know, I think just going back to how I learned about myself as a human through this process is just that it's like, okay to be vulnerable. You know, it's okay to be vulnerable. Yes. To be a human. And you don't have to be perfect. I always was trying to be that perfect teacher, and I don't do that anymore.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Well, I mean, to be honest, I think that's a product of our generation as well. We were kind of trained to do one thing after another, and I would, like, check marks of achievement and what we have to do. So I'm glad that you found this more authentic version of your teaching experience, because it probably makes your life that much more fulfilled.


[Jackie Scully]


Yeah. For your second question, I am not knocking the public school system. I'm actually very heartbroken over what we're talking about because, A, not everyone can go to private school. It's expensive. Right. Once you get a scholarship, not everyone's able to get a scholarship. We have to change the public school system. Another reason why I wanted to start my podcast, because it shouldn't be like this. The classes should not be huge. Teachers should be paid better and respect it more. And the qualities I'm talking about in the private school should be in the public school and can be you know, it is a social program, and it's supposed to be equitable. It is not. I had a student write about how she's from Camden, New Jersey, and now she's got a scholarship and goes to our private school, just how different the schools are. Yeah.


[Matt Gilhooly]


Yeah. And I think what's a good way to end this is to tell people that if they're interested in kind of these conversations about teachers, is to definitely check out the Teacher Story podcast, which is what you do. We'll put the link in the show notes so that people can listen to it and join you on that journey. I think it's just really interesting, even if you're not a teacher, if you're a parent, to kind of hear what these experiences are. I think we're kind of all in this together to make a better experience for future generations, right? This is not just a checkbox. This is like I mean, we'll talk, maybe we'll talk on your podcast about no Child Left Behind, but I think.


[Jackie Scully]


That would be a great conversation.


[Matt Gilhooly]


I think it's okay that not everyone gets an A plus. I think it's okay that not everyone finishes in twelve years. I think it's okay that not everyone goes to college. There are lots of opportunities for people in all sorts of areas and I think by listening to the teacher story, they're going to hear a lot of these conversations and how passionate people are even in these low paying teacher jobs to do their work, what they want to do and serve the future generations. So I appreciate you coming on the show and finally getting to meet you face to face and it was great to talk to you.


[Jackie Scully]


Thank you so much. Matt, I really enjoyed this and you pulled other areas of my life out that either I haven't thought about in a long time or I just didn't think about. So I appreciate it. And you have that gift. You do that.


[Matt Gilhooly]


I appreciate that. And everyone else listening, I didn't pay her to say that. But if you are enjoying these conversations on the Life Shift podcast, Jackie knows this, I know this, that these reviews and ratings help us a lot if for nothing else to just keep us going and give us the fuel to keep on. So if you like this podcast, please check out Apple podcasts and give a rating and review and subscribe and all those fun things and we'll see you next week on the Live Shift podcast.