I grew up teaching in a make-believe classroom, where I tirelessly made bulletin boards and lesson plans. I had nametags—Stacy was a fixture in my classes, always a sassy little thing, hell-bent on making my job much harder—placed perfectly on the floor and chalkboards filled with problems and homework assignments. I almost passed out when my parents got me an actual dry-erase board; I was one step closer to the big leagues, baby. Watch me go.
Being a teacher: it was my destiny.
I look back on that classroom and I remember how I inspired and motivated my children (except Stacy, she just never understood the basics). My brother remembers my fury and threats to make them pay attention. Okay, fine, perhaps I toed the line of strictness. Well, now, come to think of it, that sort of aggression was rare for someone as happy as I was ... and it’s concerning that any type of real emotion was spent on imaginary people. I did not care. I was passionate. It was destiny.
Fast-forward to the spring of 2005. Real life was just around the corner and I was offered a job in business, which I quickly accepted. It seemed very impressive that I was the first one of my friends to get a job. I did not care about the salary. It had no meaning because I didn’t understand that cereal was $5 a box—actually, that’s something I still don’t fully grasp or willingly accept; it truly angers me to the core. Nor did I care that I didn’t really have a “specific position,” a small detail that would be worked out closer to my start date. I simply checked off “get a job” on my list of things to-do. Then I went to a club meeting. Or had a beer. Perhaps both occurred simultaneously.
After a couple years in the real world, reality hit and I felt that something was missing. Each day at my job was spent getting money and making deals with companies (sometimes even very wonderful, generous ones) that I never physically saw. The difference I made, the things I did each day, were never felt by anyone. And I never felt that difference, either. I realized that I had been ignoring this need to teach, this need to make a literal difference in a life that could be felt. Yes, I never lost that interest in education, but after those couple years, I had something to compare it to. I knew that each day in my life couldn’t be played out the way they had been at my first job. Plus, I was desperate for that dry-erase board.
I decided to make the change. One thing led to another, and here I am, finishing up year two as a Real Live Teacher.
At the start of my first fall as a teacher, I had never experienced that kind of tiredness before. My mom was convinced that I had Mono. I was convinced that it was still a kissing disease. Ah, but I had no time to kiss anyone. Cross that diagnosis off the list.
Almost two years later, I am still exhausted at the end of each and every day. But you know what’s amazing? Each morning, I somehow find myself up and ready to go. I love seeing the kids, greeting them, checking in on how they’re doing. They make me laugh. They make me think. They challenge me in a way that makes the days worthwhile. Hopefully I bring a bit of that to them as well.
I have realized only recently that this is more than a career. This is my life. Each day. And, yes, these kids probably are convinced that school literally is my life and would pass out (dry-erase-board-for-Christmas style) if they ever saw me off campus, but that’s okay. It’s their lives, too. And I think we’ve been destined to impact each other in this way.