Truth be told, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher; I just forgot for a little while. Looking back, I made this decision while in elementary school. My experience in my early years of schooling was phenomenal. The school I attended was ancient and nostalgic. With its old rustic charm the building felt safe, comfortable, and inviting. The playground was phenomenal. To this day, I have never seen a playground that matches its quality. I enjoyed spending, what felt like hours, outside with my friends doing flips on the monkey bars, swinging, and jumping rope. Although highlights, the building and the playground are not the ultimate reasons I decided I want to be a teacher. The foundation for this career choice is simple; it was grounded by the many teachers who authoritatively walked down the hallways clicking their shoes.
As I recall, my teachers were loving and caring, invested in my learning, and had engaging classrooms. For instance, I remember my fifth grade teacher writing to me during the summer and encouraging me to write back. I will also never forget the carpeted clawfoot bathtub my second grade teacher had for us to sit in and read at our leisure. Because of teachers like these, early in life I decided I wanted to follow in their footsteps I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be a teacher.
Unfortunately, however, what trailed my wonderful elementary experience was junior high, followed by the even worse experience, high school. Needless to say, things changed. School was no longer the welcoming place with which I had grown accustomed. Teachers, although friendly, were not invested in me or the things I cared about. No one wrote to me during the summer and a carpeted claw-foot bathtub was certainly no where to be found. The material I learned was not relatable to my life. I remember wondering why I had to learn this, what will this ever help me do in the future, and is this really all there is to life? I quickly discovered that bare minimum effort was enough to get me by in order to maintain my GPA. Also, based upon the current role models I had, the idea of one day becoming a teacher was no longer on the surface of my mind. Instead, when I graduated from high school I decided to go to college to become an accountant. I knew I would get the most bang for my buck with this career choice and from my life experience up to that point, the salary upon graduation was the most important part of the decision making process. Nevermind the fact I was not really great with math and sitting behind a desk all day working numbers was not going to be fulfilling for me. However, providentially, things changed after my first semester of college when I was unexpectedly thrown into motherhood. My plans to become an accountant were put on hold. Life, for awhile became about survival. I did not have time to think about goals and ambition.
Quickly, I fell into my role as mother. I suppose you could say I didn’t have a choice, but even so, I loved it. I felt as though I had found my calling in life. It was a huge blessing to just be mom. The years breezed by and before I knew it five years and three kids later it was time to send our first child to Kindergarten. As difficult as it was, this was also a very exciting time for me because I was able to get back into a classroom. I volunteered at my children’s schools and worked with students whenever I could. I enjoyed being in the school environment so much. I felt like I belonged there. The conversations I had with the teachers were so fulfilling and I wished so badly I could be them.
When our third child was about to start preschool, I received a letter from her school that said they were short on teachers. My husband encouraged me to seek a position. I was nervous to apply because I only had a high school diploma. I did not feel qualified. Thankfully, the director thought differently. She hired me and placed me with a co-teacher who I already happened to know. Together, she and I figured the whole thing out. It was during my five years there I confirmed my passion for teaching. I assumed the role of the teachers who had inspired me in my early years. I loved the environment I was in. I loved the students. I loved their eagerness to learn. I loved pushing them to explore ideas and to engage in new things. I loved the parents. I loved my co-teachers and the supportive professional environment I was surrounded by.
Even though I loved every part of being a preschool teacher, I knew something was missing. When I thought about teaching preschool long term, I knew I would be happy and fulfilled, but I also knew I wanted something different. I wanted to go back and correct something that had gone terribly wrong in my own schooling experience. I wanted to be the high school English teacher I never had.
One evening I was watching the show “Brothers and Sisters” with my husband Nora, the mother, quoted George Eliot’s famous line, “It is never too late to become what you might have been.” Hearing this statement at that moment hit me very hard. I decided to talk to my husband about the possibility of going back to school to become a teacher. By this time our youngest was in the spring term of her 1st grade year of elementary school. I was not feeling needed at home quite so much anymore and I knew if I did not go back to school right at that moment in time I never would because I would feel too old and be afraid to try it. If I did not act quickly my opportunity may be lost forever. Instead of my husband shutting me down, he encouraged me to do it. His support was all I needed to move forward. I took my first class in the spring of 2011 and I will keep working toward my goal until it becomes a reality. My favorite and most fulfilling time has been when I have had the opportunity to work in classrooms. Many students I have worked with do not see the relevance of English Language Arts in their lives and I can relate to their frustration because I lived through the same experience. My passion is working alongside students and engaging them with relevant materials in the hopes they will achieve their potential.
When all is said and done, I don’t care what kind of school building I end up in teaching in. It does not have to be brand new or feel nostalgic. I don’t even care if its dilapidated and falling down. From my experiences I have learned that those things don’t make the school. Teachers are what make the school. With so many unknowns, the only thing I know for certain is that I will be clicking my shoes authoritatively down the hallways displaying a welcoming smile. I will also be keeping an open classroom door so that all who enter will see the possibilities that lie before them if they choose to let me show them.