As a newer teacher, I constantly reflect on the idea of who I thought I would be as a teacher and the surrealness of where I actually am and how I got to where I am.
Spoiler: I am not the teacher I thought I would be.
Once I decided to become a teacher, early on in high school, I immediately began to put together the idea of what type of a teacher I would be, what teachers I wanted to be like, where I wanted to teach, and the types of students I was going to have. As teachers we know the latter two are just absurd to even “decide”.
These ideas continued throughout most of college and during my placements and internships.
I wanted the “good” schools, the ones that weren’t going to make me cry on a daily basis, the ones with little to no classroom management issues, the ones with less baggage. I had dreams of teaching at my alma matter. I knew exactly the teacher I wanted to be. This wasn’t to mean that past me was unaware and naive to all of the worlds problems and teaching, but let’s be real when I write it down it sure sounds like that.
Though I had a variety of placements during my undergrad, I still had this same idea and concept in my head of what I thought a “perfect teaching job” would be when I graduated.
I loathed the idea of teaching in an inner-city or urban school, the idea of teaching in a school like that made me feel like I was a “left-over” or “reject”, a teacher that “couldn’t get a job” elsewhere. I saw what was happening in places like Detroit, I knew of the attrition on teachers and I didn’t want that.
I was told by many, including one of my advisers, that getting married while still in college was “one of the worst things I could do for my career” and that I would have a “harder time” finding a teaching job because of my marital status. I was told that there was no way I would easily find a teaching job in Michigan that I wanted, and I should be more willing to move out of state.
My goal at this point was to literally prove them wrong. To get that “perfect” teaching job at that perfect school with those perfect students, in Michigan.
Then I graduated, married to my amazingly supportive husband just six month previously. Jobs are not easy to find in December, and when you don’t have experience, well we all know how that goes. I started getting the feelings that I wasn’t going to find a teaching job.
Then I landed the job the next school year that changed me and uprooted every idea I ever thought I wanted.
I accepted a job in a hurting inner-city charter high school. I felt like God was pulling me there and it was where I needed to be, though I frequently questioned why. I walked in on week three. By the end of that week I had been called every bad name in the book, and I can tell you right now little learning happened those first few weeks. I wanted a classroom that needed little classroom management, this was a classroom with no classroom management. Complete. Chaos. My students had baggage, more baggage than anyone (let alone a child), should carry with them, and had experienced more life than me. School was not the priority for 99% of them. I will admit now, I had no idea what I was doing.
I constantly felt like I was drowning, I cried a lot (only two or three times during the actual school day). I felt like quitting. I felt like walking away from teaching. This was a far away as I could have been from the teacher I thought I would be. My administration was as unethical, unprofessional and inexperienced as you could get (and still today I will be as transparent as possible about that). Thinking about it now gives me anxiety. I knew mid-year there was no way I could survive another year there.
But I was there for a reason. I was there for the kids. I was there for me.
My school closed and I was left with the rest of my contract sitting in my bank account and no health insurance, all with no warning due to false assurance from administration.
I was back to the drawing board. This is when I realized that the teacher that I thought I would be no longer existed.
Thinking about what was “ideal”, just simply wasn’t a thing for me anymore. In my mind there was no way I wanted a teaching job like former me imagined.
I wanted to be a teacher that makes a difference and has support in doing that from other teachers and administration. That was it, and is it still today.
I mean, things like being well-liked by my students and having students that always want to learn and always do all of their work and listen to directions and have no classroom management issues is nice….but I don’t want a cake walk. Teaching isn’t a cake walk.
You see, as teachers, we can’t make up our “ideal” teaching jobs with our ideal schools and ideal students. It doesn’t work that way. We become teachers to make a difference.
I know for a fact today that I am a better teacher and person because I didn’t end up with that “ideal job” and didn’t end up like the teacher I thought I would be.
Future teachers, if you are stuck on that “ideal” job, don’t. I promise you what is outside of that mold gives so much more.
it all stacks up
One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.
President John F. Kennedy