Why I Became and am Still a Teacher #sol18
March 25, 2018
Sunday OpEd SK style
Today my fellow blogger and spiritual younger brother though we have never met, Darin Johnston posted the following OpEds on his twitter feed, Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Teachers. Both posts are seriously thought provoking. I’ll let you form you own opinion about them, but thinking like this is important. In our challenging profession prone to hyperbole from the outside, we need to know who we are as practitioners and why we continue. If we don’t know what we stand for, what we believe as educators, and how we see ourselves in the greater good, it will be difficult to not be downtrodden by the myriad of trials mostly external that weigh on us in our changing field.
This prompted me to consider my own circuitous path to my current dream job. I say that without any sarcasm. This job is the highlight of my career. I love it, even on its worst days. But I’ve begun at the end.
I went to college with the plan of becoming a human rights attorney. I majored in Economics at the University of Illinois and until my junior year had every intention of continuing. In that year, a series of events drew me to reconsider my trajectory. How else could I contribute to society and the world without that plan? Through a crazy notion of reading the entire undergraduate program catalog, a feat no one could do today, I changed my major to child development, the cousin of early childhood education, with a speciality in special education. Honestly, I never looked back.
I’m not one of those people who dreamed of being a teacher since childhood or held school with her cousins or dolls. I’m the child that was dreaming of changing the world. I met Angela Davis when I was in elementary school. All of my early childhood memories are rooted in community activism.
My parents didn’t want me to become a teacher. My mom, aunt, and grandmother were nurses. They had particular feelings about mostly feminine careers. As early feminists, they didn’t want those experiences for me. I remember when Bob and I attended a cocktail party once in the late ’80’s, another professor asked me what I did, when I told him I was working on my masters in Child Development and Family Studies, while teaching at Head Start, he was overtly dismissive. Many have been.
I proceed on from teacher to administrator to reading teacher to literacy coach. In that move from administrator to reading teacher, I spent eighteen months working in an insurance company as a personal assistant to the president. He had never really known a teacher and I had never worked in an office. What I learned about who I was, the transferable skills we have as educators, and what work looks like for many other people, was invaluable. My ability to multi-task, view a problem systematically, prioritize, and problem solve were gifts I had learned from education work. To read something quickly and synthesize, summarize, and apply were things I had learned and taught. The experience also taught me what I knew even when I was administrator, I am fueled by interactions with children.
So in our climate of change, I see evolution. In our climate of expectations, I see a stronger application of brain theory. In our climate of assessment, I see the potential to think like scientist, differentiate, experiment, activate. I see a place to continue to change the world.
So, I am not giving up on teaching. I had a teacher ask me to chat with her about her career arc this past week. My advice, just think about the next five years. Not because I think she will want to leave, but because it’s a brave new frontier. I told her that time in that classroom with those kiddos will teach you so much about yourself, about children in general and specific, it will build your toolkit for whatever next step you want to take.
Will I recommend teaching to the next generation? I would ask someone, do you want to be on the ground floor of world changing?
Slicing daily in March as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge. Inspired daily by the slices of my fellow bloggers. You may be inspired at Two Writing Teachers.