The Reason I Became an Educator
I was a model student: Fearless of the front row, hand raiser to the extreme, and more bold than an exclamation point (but still respectful). By no means was I exceptionally talented or unusually gifted; however, I did not fear going to school. I loved projects. I loved homework. I loved taking notes (I never said I wasn’t weird). The job of teaching didn’t appeal to me at the time; I was more eager at the idea of becoming a lawyer or news anchor – something where I knew my (sometimes loud) voice would be heard. Little did I know that my first job as a gymnastics coach would end up being the catalyst to my start as an educator as I learned of a new passion: Teaching.
As a gymnastics coach, I learned how much I loved differentiating for students. I enjoyed the puzzle of each child and the challenge to tailor my approach for each of them based on their personalities and learning styles. Each week at my job we would undergo lesson plan training on how to, you guessed it, lesson plan. Although we had to stick to the created plan, we were given freedom in how we delivered the lesson. I remember driving home from work each day, constantly thinking about my students and how to inspire them more. I began to see that there was a direct link between how students feel about gymnastics and how much their teacher cared and supported them (not just physically). I observed on a weekly basis coaches not showing up to work (or dragging themselves into work and very clearly not excited to be there) and the impact it had on the children and their participation. Not only were children lackadaisical when they were there in class, but the classes themselves started to dwindle in size. In the immortal words of Theodore Roosevelt, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” My observation proves that the same can be said about children.
After learning of my interest in working with students and my newly found passion of differentiation, I began to look into the profession of teaching. It seemed to have a stereotype of being an easy field of study and career path and I was surprised when I discovered the volume of work involved to enter the field of education.
On my first day of my first class, my professor told us that we would not all finish this class, and that many of the students would not continue on as teachers. Simply put, the odds of me becoming a teacher, according to my professor, were stacked against me. My heart broke. Would I be one of these students she was referring to? Would teaching cease to be my passion as I expanded my understanding and saw the reality of what teaching looked like in a classroom? Slowly I began to see what my professor was talking about. Many of those that were in the teaching program with me made the decision to not be one of these statistics (including myself). We had to dig down deep and encourage each other along the way as we sought to become the teachers that we aspired to be and teachers that we wish we had while we were going through school.
Over time, (while I was completing my Education degree, securing my credentials, and beginning my substitute teaching) I started to develop a bigger reason to why I wanted to become an educator: I saw a serious lack of passion in (several) teachers that are actively teaching the classroom today. In my career as a student, I rarely had issues with teachers (I was teacher’s pet, remember?). Some of my loved ones growing up didn’t fare so well. I saw my sister struggle through school because of a constant comparison between my skills and hers by teachers. I also heard horror stories from my boyfriend at the time (now husband) and how he had one great year of school. ONE YEAR!!! One teacher where he felt the teacher believed in him and saw his potential of something greater than what he had been able to accomplish to that point (his typical report card had more C’s than a world map). It broke my heart to know that not everyone had loved school like I had. Moreover, had such a difficult time and passionless teachers leaving them feeling inadequate and below their student piers and hating school. This became my driving force. It became my penetrating focus: I would (and still do) strive to validate and appreciate EVERY student’s learning needs by differentiating my instruction, meeting them where they are.