Thursday, November 20, 2014

What Made You Want to Be a Teacher?

I never wanted to be a teacher (stay with me).  I didn’t grow up loving to play school with my sister, or dreaming of the day I would inherit my own chalkboard and golden apple.  I grew up wanting to be a lot of things, from author to artist and just about everything in between, but never a teacher.  I was raised by two teachers turned administrators and I saw how hard they worked, and always thought “Why?  My parents are so smart, and they work so hard, they could’ve been anything they wanted.”  It had never occurred to me until the end of my college career that maybe that’s exactly what they wanted to be.

I was a good student in school and got good grades.  I read a lot of books and learned a lot of things.  When I was in high school, I thought I had it all figured out-I was going to go to college and become a doctor.  I shadowed a doctor for a few weeks, a really great orthopedic surgeon, and loved it.  Off I went to college, to a fairly exclusive human physiology program that filtered into a fast track program where you could complete your undergraduate and MD in 6 years total.  My parents tried to talk me out of it, but I’m rather stubborn.  Here’s one of the many times I should’ve listened to my parents.  It took me until my senior year of college to realize I shouldn’t pursue medicine.  I took an elective in Children’s Literature, as I had always loved picture books and reading.  I thought it would be a nice and easy course to round out my last year as an undergraduate.  As part of this course, we were required to tutor underprivileged students in reading twice a week.  And that’s when I very reluctantly admitted what my mother claims to have always known- I may not have always wanted to be a teacher, but I needed to be one.

Some of you may be shocked-how can a teacher blatantly admit this isn’t their dream job?  It may not have always been my dream, but it has definitely become the job of a lifetime.  Why was it not my dream?  I was lucky to have many stellar teachers growing up, but I also had some real duds.  I think the duds stuck with me, and made me have a more negative view of teachers.  I came to think the teachers who went the extra mile and loved their students so fiercely were the rare ones, like my aunt who taught kindergarten with such magic, I swear to this day she must have a wand.  It was in tutoring these underprivileged students, and seeing that some of them had some real duds for teachers, that I saw I NEEDED to be a teacher.  I knew I could put more passion, love, and enthusiasm into the job than some of the ones I had as a student, and that these students had.

So, as a senior in college, I began substitute teaching, I finished out my degree in the health field and began applying to graduate programs.  I even fielded calls from admissions representatives asking “Are you sure you applied to the right program?  We could easily fit you into our Occupational Therapy program, or Physical Therapy, maybe?”  As much as I had dreamed of being in the medical field, I knew that wasn’t my calling anymore.  I remained adamant and began graduate courses that summer.  I continued as a substitute teacher for the two years I spent to complete my two master’s degrees.

There you have it.  I didn’t always want to be a teacher, but I can say I am truly grateful every single day that I am.  Every night I pray that I will be one of the good ones, and never one of the duds, because that’s what every student deserves, and the reason I am a teacher.

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