In terms of education and the desire to be a part of the process, the majority (from my experience) of those who wish to be teachers seemed to have known it their whole lives. They already mentally chose the subject and age group they would influence for the next 30 years of their lives. I was not that person. I started at a community college in the UW system and realized that I was decent in English, so that was the path I followed through my first 4-year degree. While I was completing it, I worked various jobs until I found myself at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club in my hometown. It was there that I became a program coordinator and fell in love with the educational process. I enjoyed everything from the activity planning to the growth of each learning relationship (and let’s be real; all of the awesome school supplies).
After graduation, I worked in Madison, WI at a job that was comfortable, but lacked the luster that I saw in education, so after about 2 years I decided to enroll in school for Physical and Health Education. I realized that it was my passion back when I was in high school. I loved every aspect of athletic training, wellness, stress relief; the whole nine! Since my family health history was not A+, I took it upon myself early on to make those changes (seeing my dad at 55 years old appear to be closer to 80 due to poor health choices was more than enough motivation). Since high school was the age that I came to make my own choices, high school is the age group I aspire to teach. In regards to health and wellness, I believe that particular age group is more receptive to tools for positive self-change; physical or emotional.
Just because I decided to be an educator later in my scholastic career doesn’t mean I didn’t have teachers that influenced my decision to become one. I have a distinct memory of a conversation with my sophomore math teacher (who was in her late twenties at the time) about why I didn’t do homework but earned ‘A’s on all of my exams and tutored my classmates in some of the units. She was fun, knowledgeable, and most importantly, relatable. I never felt a sense of appraisal from her in terms of my aptitude or personality. She was clear in instruction and fair in her expectations. The conversation at her desk wasn’t to criticize or question me, but to merely make a statement. That statement stuck to the back of my mind ever since it was said: “Sometimes I think we [teachers] lose sight of what’s important and it takes someone to bring us back to why we are here. I hope you become a teacher someday. Don’t lose your perspective on what’s important.”
She reminded me very much of Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poets Society; enthusiastic, intelligent, and (what I believe to be crucial in teaching) able to foster critical thinking and problem solving in the subject. Since math is a subject that contains many roots to the same outcome, she never hesitated to listen to a student’s differing way to solve a problem; if anything, she would use it as a segue into another concept!
The text assigned in the first week of this class had three main themes when it comes to being a good teacher; organization, enthusiasm, and knowledge. If she saw that I had all three when I was an emotional little rebel of a 15-year-old girl, who am I to not try to be the best educator I can be?
I got a B in that class and we still email each other from time to time. She couldn’t be more proud.