freakin’ beautiful

What she wore: black running pants, grey hornet t-shirt, slip on tennis shoes. 


Well, as the title suggests, today is freakin’ beautiful.  I have no idea what the temperature is, but it’s the kind of day where kids are out on their bikes and everyone wishes they owned a convertible.  I took a long walk with the dog and the endorphins are really kicking in.  I’ve had two phone calls from the hub, bought some excellent shoes, and basically had a great weekend.  Below I’m printing a little essay I’ve written on teaching.  I’m no author, and I’m notorious for not doing a very good job proof-reading my own work, so feel free to ignore any glaring problems.  I just like to put my words out there into the world in case they will help someone.  If your eyes start to glaze over reading something a little long, then please don’t read it–I aim to please, not torture.
 
KM
 

Why I Teach

 

Teaching is one of those professions—lots of people think that they might like to try teaching one day.  The truth is that while many people consider teaching, few pursue it, and even fewer ever become teachers.  When people decide to leave the profession, I feel a profound sense of sadness, but I do not blame them.  It’s one of the few jobs in the world where you have to be “on” all the time.  If you’re having a bad day there’s no hiding in your cubicle and surfing the net.  You have and audience every day and you are expected to perform.  This can be too much stress, and it takes a certain kind of person to deal with it every day.  In addition to this, the profession is run by legislators and government officials.  It can be frustrating to report to the public at large, or worse yet, a government official with no experience in education.            

I had no intention of ever being a teacher.  I come from a family of lawyers, and it was assumed that I, too, would go to law school.  I thought that all the English classes involved in my English education major would help me when I took the LSAT.  I remember lamenting the fact that I had to take student teaching—“too bad I have to take student teaching and I’ll never be a teacher.  That seems like a lot of work.”  Life had other plans for me.  I fell in love with teaching. 

            Student teaching was rewarding, and I left with good reviews from my master teachers.  It did not, however, prepare me for the horror that would await me at my first teaching job.   I was alone at my job.  I taught a special needs reading class which was unique to the district, so I was not assigned a mentor.  No one helped me navigate the basics of teaching: where the bathrooms were, where the principal’s mailbox was, where to turn in lesson plans, how to operate the copy machine and internet.  I was drowning, and no one threw me a life preserver. 

            What I didn’t realize then, but I do now, is that teachers are a proud group.  They are proud of their abilities and sometimes this can cause them to turn a blind eye to the new members of their group.  They are under-paid and under-appreciated and it’s critical to them that people understand that teaching is no easy profession to be embarked upon lightly.  They are also used to seeing people come and go.  According to the statistics, somewhere around 66% of all new teachers have left the profession within the first five years.  In my first years of teaching I was insulted by my superiors, ignored by many, and degraded in front of my students.  I didn’t quit, but I spent a lot of nights crying. 

            The reason I stayed isn’t the reason that many would suspect.  It has nothing to do with affecting young lives or changing the world.  The reason I stayed was to change stereotypes, but not about the kids—about myself.  For many I was an affluent, self-absorbed, white girl.  I never worked in college, I had my own car at the age of fifteen and access to daddy’s platinum card by the time I was eighteen.  A lot of people never get past the surface.  Be it color, gender, or socioeconomic status, there are a million ways to classify people, so you never have to bother getting to know them.  Even my brother used to refer to me as “one of those sorority types.”

            Teaching allows me to be someone other than the product of my father’s success.  No one knows me or my family—there isn’t a teacher in sight in my family tree.  I get hired on my own assets, and I keep my job based on my ability.  I work in the kinds of schools my parents never would have allowed me to attend.  I only went to private school, and I only teach in public.  I work with kids who are crammed into substandard housing three to a bed.    I’ve heard my kids talking about dodging drive-bys, and seen homes swarming with insects.  I’ve seen the real world that my parents fought to keep away from me. 

            People are astounded when I tell them I teach teenagers—maybe I could be an elementary teacher, but never older kids.  I’m proud of what I do.  Most of my friends from college are chasing the all-mighty dollar, and wouldn’t deign to do something as low-paying of teaching.  I’ve already done the money thing—now I’m doing the meaningful thing. 

            I may or may not be making a difference in my kids.  I try my hardest to treat each one of them with respect and dignity which can be hard to find when you’re a teenager.   My old students call and e-mail me, and I see the fruits of their labor turn into well-rounded lives.  Maybe I had a small role in this—maybe not.  What I do know is that teaching has made me a better person.  I understand the world better and understand the gifts that I have been given.  We all win a genetic lottery if we spend our childhood in warm houses with running water and electricity.  Even better if we know both our parents and have regular contact with them.  I hope that at the very least I can repay the great gifts that God has given me—I’ll probably come up short in this lifetime, but I’ll do my best. 

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About takedeux

In one summer I had a baby who was hospitalized for five weeks, quit my job, and moved back to my hometown. This blog is about starting over.
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15 Responses to freakin’ beautiful

  1. Kelly says:

    OMG..we were answering the questions at Russ\’s space at the same time! LOL I saw you as soon as I published my comment and clicked on you from right there!
     
    This is a good post and one which I can identify. You said it very nicely.
     
    How did you get the book covers to come up? I love Chinua Achebe. It was a powerful book when I read it 13 years ago and it\’s powerful now. Man.. that just made me feel old because I read it for a history class in college!

  2. russ says:

    Great essay! And even better answers to my \’survey\’ questions! I was rolling laughing! Never once had I considered the conspiracy theory and now I am absolutely convinced of it!!
    Now, though, I am seriously worried about the lack of media persistence in getting to the bottom of this! Perhaps the local editor was somehow involved too, you think?
    Thanks for visiting ZwebbyVille! We enjoyed it!
    Russ

  3. Unknown says:

    Heya chicka! Hope your week is good…yeah I\’m like changing colors every minute on my blog now…lol…hugs, Mercy

  4. Unknown says:

    You\’ll NEVER come up short in this life time…..if you\’re doing what you feel passionate about, you can\’t help but impact the lives of the students you teach.  However, you may not be AWARE of the impact you\’ve had….and your students may not even be aware of the impact you\’ve had on them until later in their lives….but rest assured, you WILL impact their lives.  Part of the reason I teach (adults at the consumer level) is that I believe I have a message for at least one person…and if I reach that one person, whether I\’m aware of it or not, then I\’ve accomplished something incredible.  So, I continue to teach, with the hope that I will someday (if not already) have reached that one person I was meant to reach.  Keep doing what you are impassioned to do, and know that you WILL reach those who are intended to hear your message.

  5. Jeanne-Marie says:

    I love your story. I have a sister that has study some to become a teacher, but she has not followed through. She make a good teacher , she knows how to teach, but she could make a good lawyer too , she knows how to argue. I do not think I could have the patience it takes to do your job.

  6. Christina says:

    gd for u! and yes, you should be very proud of yourself even if its coz u stuck by ur guns! u go girl! x

  7. Unknown says:

    I read your essay on teaching after clicking on it from the
    MSN ad page. I cried. Silly I know, but I am a teacher too, and what you wrote
    is my heart\’s cry. I have been teaching for five years now, and I remember the
    coolness I felt from my fellow staffers those first years. Teaching has made me
    a better person a thousand times over. My life is so rich because of the teenagers
    I encounter. A fellow teacher was telling me just today that she "would
    never recommend a young person to go into teaching anymore.” I walked away from
    that conversation with much bewilderment; she must be missing the magic
    altogether: tragic. Thank you for putting your passion for our world in
    writing.

  8. Frances says:

    Your essay on reason to teach is very candid.  It is exactly like what you said that teaching is not simply "teaching."  There are a lot to teaching that many cannot and will not see until they step in to take on the challenging role as a teacher.  I was a teacher for three years at an inner city school so I experienced many of the things you mentioned in your essay.  I\’d like to share my favorite teaching quote with you… "With a mind like yours, you could have landed almost any kind of job you wanted.  The field was wide open. Your options seemed endless. But at the end of the day, you counted the cost, assessed your talents, and set your feet on the path of your heart" – anonymous.
     
    P.S. Keep up the good work and always know that you ARE making a difference in your students\’ lives.  You might not see it now, but I promise you that you made and are making a big difference.  Just think… if you were not there in the classroom, your students would all be million times worse than where they are right now.

     

  9. Sylvia says:

    I too was a teacher.  I am now retired, but I miss the kids terribly.  Your essay was so good.  I really enjoyed reading it, as it is so true.   Why don\’t teachers get paid more?  When the congressmen  think about education,  they forget how important teaching is to them and everyone else.

  10. Unknown says:

    I enjoyed your essay very much. I too am a teacher and I love it. Not something I always dreamed of but it still is rewarding in its own way. I love my kids and I look forward to seeing them everyday no matter how the day may be. Keep up the good work! One day you will see the difference you make.

  11. Julie says:

    That\’s a great post.  You know, I did my undergrad degree in philosophy because I was told it\’d be good preaparation for law school.  I thought that what I really wanted was to make money & have the stuff I never got when I was growing up.  But then I went home and spent some time working with some of the teachers at my old high school, and I realized that there is just so much more.  I\’m still working on my teaching certificate – it\’s a long story – but hopefully this time next year I\’ll be preparing for my first year. 

  12. Wahzat says:

    This essay wasn\’t long at all. It was rather captivating. As I said somewhere else on your site- It is great that you are teacher. You are super special. 🙂

  13. Unknown says:

    Thanks for your candor and your sincerity.  Although you may not see the impact of your teaching right now, you will eventually.  Keep up the great work!

  14. Janette says:

    Enjoy reading what you wrote. 
    I am a preschool teacher and studying Special Education….wondering what can I do for them in order to better their lives….

  15. Lotta says:

    Yep, sums it up pretty much exactly. It\’s a strange profession: addictive and exhausting, rewarding and exaspererating. And beautiful…

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