How I Knew I Wanted to Be a Teacher
At the beginning of the summer, our local newspaper interviewed me for a story, which was pretty weird. My college had sent out an article they wrote because I had spoken at our convocation ceremony, but locally, they picked up the story because they loved the angle: I come from a long line of teachers and I am following right in the footsteps that were all but drawn out for me.
The local news sent in a photographer on the very first day I subbed in Newport. All I could think was, nothing like making a scene right off that bat. Things worked out though- if you didn’t see this post I wrote previously, I got hired to teach fifth grade science in Newport a little more than a month ago.
I didn’t always want to be a teacher. When I was little, I wanted to be a veterinarian like my father. Then, in middle school, I joined mock trial and wanted to be a lawyer. Next, it was a forensic anthropologist (I loved the show “Bones”) until finally I was in high school and things were getting serious. I remember thinking, knowing, that I wanted to be a parent one day. Considering the time my mom got to spend with my sister and me, after school and in the summer, because she was a teacher, made the profession seem optimal. But I knew I needed more than that. I wasn’t going to survive any job if I chose to do it because of its schedule.
So, I buckled down. I signed up to be a tutor, started working more with kids, and even took an early education course at my high school. Slowly, I discovered that I loved being in the classroom. Seeing a child finally get to an answer after struggling brought me such an incredible sense of fulfillment. Teaching was something I enjoyed, something that gave me purpose. Furthermore, I was good at it. I found that I could teach math to students having difficulty, because I had the same difficulties when I was a child.
Fast forward to college, where I was placed in a classroom almost right away. One of the strongest aspects of the teaching program at Rhode Island College is that it got us in the classroom our second semester. We weren’t even in the school of education at that point, yet there we were, working with English Language Learners. Those of us who made it through the semester, struggling to communicate with children speaking Arabic and Portuguese, were reaffirmed in our beliefs that we were where we needed to be.
I didn’t love my education classes in college. I found the professors kind and helpful, but honestly, a little old fashioned. We stuck to theory, debated procedure and curriculum, when I really just wanted to be in the classroom. Thankfully, the middle level program I became involved with opened my eyes. We talked about teaching for social justice and considering the silenced dialogue. We practiced challenging power structures in the classroom and creating curriculum while considering equity. Different opinions lead to discourse in the classroom and the opportunity to teach different students well.
If there’s one suggestion I can offer aspiring teachers, it’s to just get out and do it. While I was in college, I taught at a summer camp. I was a “teacher naturalist” working under Rhode Island Environmental Education curriculum. Not only did this position help me secure the one I’m in today, but it gave me such incredible practice. In education, you have to be in the classroom, in front of a group of kids, to really understand the gravity of the profession. It’s one thing to read about it, another to actually do it. If you can get out there and work with kids in a setting where you are required to manage their behaviors, seize the opportunity. It will only benefit you in the end.
There has never been a day where I haven’t looked forward to going into the classroom. Sure, I’ve been incredibly nervous some mornings, anxious about an observation or a lesson I maybe didn’t prepare as well as I should have. I know that if one day I feel differently, it’ll be time for a change. Until then, I’m planning to enjoy the gratitude I feel walking into my classroom. I’m going to hold on to the happy faces I see every morning. I’m going to embrace this profession for everything it is.