I did not choose teaching. Teaching chose me.
I knew that I would be a teacher for the rest of my life the second day I student taught. The teacher who’d been assigned to supervise me was nearing the end of her career. She was tired and crabby and burning out. She spoke harshly to the students and spent a great deal of time griping about them in the teachers’ lounge at lunchtime. I think she was glad I was there because after the first week, I was pretty much left on my own for the nine weeks I was required to complete as a Student Teacher. So I taught. Or at least I tried really hard to. And I swore I’d do it without yelling or crying. By the time I left those weird, wonderful 8th graders, I was hooked. That was in 1983.
Through the years, there have been days I’ve been frustrated, angry, and sick to death of grading comma splices and sentence fragments. Actually, I’ve been a lot of things, but I’ve never been bored. There have been more than a few times in the middle of giving a lecture or talking with a student after class when I’ve thought, “Oh my GOSH! This is so much fun! I can’t believe I get a paycheck to do this!” So, I admit it. I’m a little Dork-y about teaching. I remember the moments of grace and the satisfaction as well as the students I’ve had through the years who’ve touched my heart or challenged me to be better and more compassionate. People like that tend to stay with a person.
My daughter is a teacher, too. Maybe it is as a result of having practically grown up out at the college where I teach or maybe it has something to do with some of the really great teachers she has had through the years. Maybe it is because she loves literature and school supplies. Or maybe, just maybe she has felt the same calling that I felt so many years ago.
The teachers I remember helped to create teachers like me as well as nurses and lawyers and scientists…..doctors and funeral directors and dentists and pharmacists…..clergymen and architects and musicians and police officers and business owners…..set designers…and artists… carpenters and mechanics. They did it in a town of less than a thousand people in a county with one of the highest poverty rates in the state. They coached our teams and directed our choirs and bands. They volunteered in the community and chaperoned countless school dances in the old Arena. Sometimes, they called our parents and ratted us out. Sometimes they WERE our parents. They didn’t get rich doing it and the schools they taught in were not the ones with the marble staircases and chandeliers and swimming pools we visited up on the Iron Range during Away games. But they did it. Without much thanks. And they did it well. We are the proof.
Most of them are retired now. Many of them are gone. But not really, because what they taught us all continues to shape lives in a million different ways every day. If I close my eyes, I can still see the hallways of the old high school. I remember their faces and voices. I believe that what I learned from them has remained with me, with my friends and classmates. I wonder if they knew then the impact they would have?
I am a wife and mother….a daughter and sister…an aunt and cousin and niece and friend. I am a citizen of the world.
And because of a lot of other teachers, I am also a Teacher. With a capital T.