I got tagged by Terry Shay on this and after giving it some thought, decided to post my response and keep the meme going. I actually figured out a way for it to fit into the nature of this blog, as well.
First, the question: Looking back on your life, what was the “worst job” you ever had that ironically helped prepare you to one day become an educator?
Next, the reason I think it fits this blog: Sometimes the only way to keep your sanity as a new teacher is to reflect on and evaluate the reason you became a teacher in the first place. It can be a rejuvenating experience to remember the event or series of events that led you to education. This is usually how it was for me. I would remember the times I felt like a real teacher . . . meaning I’d gotten through to somebody.
Which brings me to the last thing I’ll do with this post, which is to answer the question and keep the meme alive. As I contemplated the question, I tried to really pinpoint some magical event in my life that told me I was meant to be a teacher. The first time I remember wanting to be a teacher was about second grade or somewhere around there. Prior to this time, I always said I wanted to be a nurse, just like my mom. However, one of my big sisters destroyed that dream for me when she pointed out that part of nursing school was having to change the dirty diapers of babies. (as if she really knew what nursing school was all about). It was later that same day that I focused my dreams on being a teacher. Little did I know that someday I’d be changing the dirty diapers of babies without the benefit of learning a trade . . .
Off and on through my education, I encountered teachers who made me start to believe I really did want to be a teacher. These educators were the ones that were really great teachers and remain my examples of what a teacher ought to be . . . Polly Potter (4th and 5th grade), Mrs. Keast (8th grade history), John Brown (9th grade Earth Science), Mr. Ratzloff (9th grade Life Science), Janice Smith (10th grade English), Sheila Lisman (11th grade English), Del Knauer (12th grade English), Gary Hughes (12th grade Government and Russian History). It was interesting, each year I had a teacher like this, I decided that was the grade I would teach when I grew up.
Lots of things happened as I became an adult and my dream to become a teacher didn’t materialize for quite some time. It wasn’t until I was going to college as a non-traditional student that my Biology instructor, Joyce Selsor, saw in me the potential for becoming a teacher, that I began to really pursue becoming a teacher. By that point in my life, I had become cynical and all of my hopes to become a teacher had long since diminished.
Even after Mrs. Selsor encouraged me, I wasn’t sure. I think that what convinced me was the “worst job” part of the question. I was a Supplemental Instruction leader for General Biology during my sophomore year of college. This meant that I planned short tutorial-type lessons designed for small groups of 5-8 people. I took my job seriously. One day, towards the end of the school year, a group of three students who had been very dedicated to showing up to all of my sessions approached me. One of them, apparently the designated spokesperson, said, “we just want you to know that you really helped us. You are a good teacher.” To which I thought . . . “Can someone pull this hook out of my mouth?” and as they say, the rest is history.
The truth is, although I’ve left the classroom for the moment, I’m finding that it is exceedingly difficult to stay out of the classroom. Before you make any decisions about whether or not to remain a teacher, reflect on what got you here and ponder what it really means to you to be a teacher.