On Becoming a Teacher

I was in fourth grade. We were in the dining room for a fancier than normal dinner. I’m pretty sure that the neighbors were over. Someone was asking all the children what they wanted to be. My sister, who was in kindergarten, wanted to be a garbageman. Everyone laughed. I wanted to be a teacher. My father was curt, “Don’t be silly. You’re too smart to be a teacher.” No one disagreed. The chair pushed hard against my back. I stared through the door into the kitchen beyond. I didn’t want to cry. And the conversation moved on.

I was in college, considering a career in the foreign service. My school didn’t even offer an Education major. I studied Economics and International Politics, Political Science and Philosophy. I went to a fancy dinner party. I was wearing a long dress, holding a cocktail in a dark-paneled room. I laughed as I told an acquaintance that I wasn’t a grown-up yet because I still hadn’t quite gotten over that standard childhood dream of being a teacher. She looked perplexed. My voice rose as my statement became a question, “You know, how everyone wants to be a teacher when they’re young?” She said, “No one I know wanted to be a teacher.” And the conversation moved on.

I was in the hallway of my boyfriend’s apartment in France. I curled the phone cord around my finger and told my father that I still wanted to teach, that I had always wanted to teach. I told him that teachers should be society’s best. He agreed. I tried not to cry. And the conversation moved on.

I took a class that allowed me to teach in a local elementary school. I took a job that allowed me to teach my colleagues. I moved overseas so I could “see if I like teaching.” I did. I applied to grad school. I taught and I taught and I taught.

I sat in the principal’s office, interviewing for a job I couldn’t hope to get. I was only sort of qualified. It was after hiring season. I only had the interview because of a friend of a friend. The office was paneled in dark wood and the hard chair pressed into my back as we talked. As the conversation moved on, I confessed that I was more of an English teacher than a Math teacher. She was curt, “Nonsense. You are very clearly a teacher of students.” And I was.

And I am.

11 thoughts on “On Becoming a Teacher

  1. I love your story here. I, also, have always wanted to be a teacher. And, I do teach. I’ve always taught. But, my route is as circuitous as yours. First, a nurse. A Master’s Degree in that field. Then, a Nurse Practitioner – with prescriptive rights and my own clients – who were children (I was a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner). Then, a Nursing Instructor – at two different colleges – one a famous institution. I married and moved. A course or two. Substitute teaching. Founding parent groups for gifted students, student groups for writing and reading, a garden club founder that saw children once a month for 13 years. Enrollment in another Master’s program – Environmental Education. I am a teacher. No one can tell me otherwise. Thanks again for your post. I love how you knew your calling and pursued it. You are a teacher!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great story. I love the structure and the way that hard-backed chair keeps resurfacing. I totally feel the lack of understanding that you encountered, too. As a male, I continued to get that whenever I said I was a teacher. “So, are you planning to be a principal some day?” They had trouble understanding that I really just liked to teach. Unlike you, I didn’t dream of being a teacher. My realization was much later. I, too, wrote an entry about it. It’s not as well-crafted as yours, but here’s the link anyway. https://humbleswede.wordpress.com/2017/10/23/the-news

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Okay… now I have tears in my eyes! This is the second post I’ve read today about becoming a teacher… and I see in humbleswede’s comment that he wrote one also. I love, love how you crafted your story… walking me beside you from childhood to adulthood. Your use of object placement is superb–the hard chair and the dark wood paneling. The matter-of-fact terseness of your ending is perfect… a declaration of what you’ve known your entire life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alice, your comments mean a lot to me. This is my first attempt at blogging for anyone other than my family. It turns out that I get a little stage fright & have to keep reminding myself that this is good, that this is what I ask my students to do all the time – and I’ve only done a few days! Your positive comments are balm for my nervous writer’s soul. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah… thanks for letting me know. Sometimes I hesitate to comment. I suppose that’s my “stage fright” that I must overcome.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved this slice and the repetition you used to bring your message home. I never had a dream of being a teacher, so my parents were shocked when I realized how much I loved it while tutoring in college. I was pre-law and my dad said the same thing. His famous joke to friends was “my Mallory wasn’t going to be a lawyer or a doctor, but she decided to teach”. He still doesn’t really get it, but it’s okay because I do and I know I’m happiest in my career.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You were meant to be the teacher. I am glad you persisted and did not let that little voice get smothered.

    I like how the principal recognize that you are a teacher of students.

    Tell us about your teaching journey next.

    Best wishes.


    Liked by 1 person

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