So here I am again! It’s been a while. The end of this school year is turning out to be quite busy and exciting. I’ve been very involved in leading our Student Government Association here at school. I also volunteered to take part in a five day workshop and training about the foundations of reading and the reading process. The workshops were intense and have required a lot of outside reading, responding, and completion of assignments, but it’s been SO rewarding for me. I enjoy learning about that kind of thing, and I even decided to do a Level 2 (a higher level) of the training to receive more staff development credit and become more knowledgeable of the reading process and how to instruct and intervene for students with reading disabilities or difficulties. Ultimately, I know having this experience and knowledge can only help me when I pursue teaching.
I talked last time about how I want to go back to teaching next school year. I want to be back in an English classroom or teaching exceptional children in a high school setting. I took a break from this passion when I worked one-on-one with the little girl who I’ve talked about before. During my five years with that little girl, she was my passion and where the heart of my job was. However, once I was transferred into my current position, I lost the passion and twinkle in my heart. My job is good and some days I go home feeling pretty satisfied with what I’ve done or how I’ve been able to help students, but it’s still just a job. It’s not a career and it’s not my passion. My passion, whether I knew it or not at the time, has always been to foster learning for students. I happen to have a niche with high school students. Upon returning to a high school setting for my job, I remembered how I actually like crazy teenagers and all of their naivety mixed with an ironic sense of confidence. My personality and way of talking to people meshes well with most high schoolers. They get my sarcasm and no-nonsense threshold of tolerance. If I tell a 17 year old to drop the bad attitude or quit being a butthole, he/she seems to respect my way of keeping things in check. The other part of my passion – the most important – is that I have a lot of knowledge and advice about literature, writing, and critical thinking to share with students. I spent four years of study in college just to be able to share what I was learning with high schoolers. A lot of money was spent to gain that degree and license for teaching…and I’ve not used it since 2007. Stupid, right?
You see, when I began teaching English right out of college, I was so ignorant of what the experience would be like. I didn’t completely fail right out of the gate; as a matter of fact, I still believe to this day that I was pretty decent at my job despite being a rookie. However, I wasn’t in a positive environment and I wasn’t supported by enough positive teachers. The school in which I worked was in kind of a recession with poor teacher morale, less than stellar student behavior, and the gravity and intimidation of that weighed on me as a young 20-something woman. The big picture seemed too scary to me at the time, and incidents that affected me personally didn’t help. I had no confidence. I began to think the older kids weren’t meant for me; maybe I was meant for the little folks – elementary school or exceptional children. I resigned from my job after only two years and spent the next six years cultivating my sense of education by working with exceptional children in an elementary school. I was then transferred back to a high school school because of my previous experience in teaching high school. How ironic. I purposefully left a high school in my county, but after six years, the county decided I needed to work in a high school again. But here’s the thing: It’s different now. I have more experience, more confidence, and high schoolers don’t intimidate me or phase me as much as they used to. I don’t sweat the small stuff and I don’t take events, situations, or myself so seriously. I can’t say that I might not feel differently and still doubt myself when I’m back to teaching, but I’m seeing more of the positive and how this is likely my purpose for my life’s career.
In addition, while some adults still find ways to criticize and bring nothing but negativity to educators, I’ve found encouragement and positivity straight from the source: the students. As I’ve worked with high school seniors and helped them to apply to colleges, edit their college essays, write reference letters for them, guide them through AP English work, and even helped them register for college classes once they’ve been accepted, they’ve made me feel useful and appreciated. I’ve actually had students tell me that I should go back to teaching English (they know my past because of my affinity for editing their written work…haha) because I’m “too smart” to be sitting in a room and watching students work on computers all day. A few seniors have even lamented that because they’re graduating, that cancels their chances of ever experiencing me as a “real” teacher and instructor. I don’t write about these things to brag or make myself sound good. I write about them because I cling to the good stuff I hear and feel in my education experience. The general public needs to know that the negativity and judgement towards teachers far exceeds the good stuff they hear. Educators have to cling to the small snippets and little nuggets that come to them, most of the time from their students. Of all the groups of people to show appreciation for educators, you wouldn’t expect students to be the group that expresses it the most, but in my experience, they are. Other groups of adults, whether parents, administrators, or even lawmakers, lack in the appreciation department. So when I experience a positive comment or “thank you” from a student, I cling to it and treasure it. It gets me through the rough times of ridicule from adults who know nothing about what goes on in a classroom or school. I hope that when I return to teaching, I am able to create even more connections and do even more good than I might already have. I want to be the positive and persistent figure in a teenager’s life who pushes him/her to do the very best possible work with genuine effort and who causes him/her to mature and value education. My passion is rooted in that desire to affect young and impressionable minds.
There might be some folks reading this post and thinking, “Why should a job or career have that much effect on a person’s sense of purpose or identity?” I fully acknowledge that some people work a whole career without having the work affect their identity or sense of who they are. Some workers can go to work each day and go home to family or friends and be totally detached and put their identity in just the personal life stuff. But I personally can’t do that. Part of my whole personality and makeup is my desire and ability to work with and serve others. It’s part of my nature. So to me, it’s only natural to place weight in a career that involves using such a large part of my personality. Yes, I’m a wife, mother, daughter, aunt, friend, etc… but I’m also an educator to my core. I find happiness in serving and interacting with the larger scale community, so for me, that’s the body of teenagers who come to school daily. No offense to those who do, but I could not make a career sitting at a desk in a cubicle or room by myself all day. I couldn’t make a career by communicating with people mainly through telephone or email. I find my niche is being around multiple people, talking to all or some of them at the same time. Things will get crazy and hectic, and some days I’ll come home and want to crawl in bed and pull the covers over my head and not speak to anyone because I need to decompress. But I’m the type of person that I’d far rather have those days sporadically than everyday of boredom and rote action. I want to influence and facilitate change – I want to make a difference and change the lives of teenagers for the better.
And despite having abandoned my potential eight years ago and thinking teaching wasn’t meant for me, I’ve grown and realized I’m still being called. I still have the yearning. I feel like I can still follow this career and passion and be successful. I hope that as this school year winds down and I begin looking for a new position for next year that my experience will be acknowledged, my potential will be recognized, and some administration or county will take a chance on me and have faith in me. I just have to keep remembering that if God has this in my plan, it’ll happen and I’ll come back even better and stronger than before.