Teacher (Wo)Man

23 Oct

I had a professor in college that will forever stand out in my mind. Her name was Dr. Smith and she was a kind southern woman that taught English courses. I took multiple classes with her throughout my four years in undergrad, including a Structure of Nature and Language class as well as classes for my secondary education degree.

I have a degree in secondary education? Well, no, not exactly.

I remember specifically the first class I took that was directly related to secondary ed. was with Dr. Smith. One of the first things she told us was that if we weren’t sure we wanted to be high school teachers, we should quit right now. This sounds harsh, but it really wasn’t. She knew that it was going to be a tough few years to finish these credentials. She knew that we had to be focused and aware of what we were doing, what it meant and who we would become. At that point in time, I was sure I wanted to teach.

But what I didn’t know was that I wasn’t completely aware of who I was yet. I knew what high school was like. I had only just finished it 15 months prior. I just didn’t know what the teachers put into it. The endless hours coming up with lesson plans and projects and having to base it all on what the state mandates you teach.

By junior year, I knew I still wanted to teach.

Every class I had taken on literature was great. Well, except that one Shakespeare class, who I’m still not a big fan of. I took a young adult lit class with Dr. Smith my junior year and I devoured every last book that we read. That’s where I discovered my love for young adult lit.

Dr. Smith’s Structure of Nature and Language class not only led me to new friends but also a new interest in languages, syntax and basic parts of speech.

My senior year was where I hit a snag. It was the final class with Dr. Smith before our student teaching semester. We were learning how to create a lesson plan. I remember sitting in class, not being able to focus on the material. It was so strict. So structured.

By this point in my life, I knew that structured wasn’t me. I had recently gotten a tattoo on my side that says, “Know thyself.” I knew myself and I knew that I couldn’t teach children based on what I was told to teach them.

I came to the realization in Dr. Smith’s class that I couldn’t, wouldn’t be a high school teacher. At least not yet. When I graduated college, I would only be 21. If I got a job immediately after, I would still be only 21. That’s too young. Too young to teach, to young to be structured. I couldn’t do it.

But my biggest fear was, not what was I going to do, but, how will Dr. Smith feel? She put so much time and effort into our class and into each person. I didn’t want to disappoint her. I remember the lecture she had given two years prior.

I was scared to talk to her but I knew I had to do it within the first few weeks of class. I set up a meeting and I told her everything. I still wanted to teach but I couldn’t be put in such close confines. That wasn’t me!

Looking back now, I shouldn’t have been surprised at her reaction. She was understanding, caring, thoughtful. She was not disappointed at all. She could see that I knew what I wanted.

Five years later, I’m still not a teacher. But I’m also still not ready. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be ready to be a high school teacher. I know I want to teach though, and a grad school professor helped me realize that. She showed me that it’s possible to teach under certain guidelines, but still teach what and how you want. But that’s a story for another time.

Did you ever change your mind on your career? How did it effect you? And those around you? Who or what helped you get through it?


2 Responses to “Teacher (Wo)Man”

  1. Stephanie October 24, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    I love this post! In my junior year, with literally one film class left and my internship I KNEW I did not want to work in film. I still had one year of classes left, but they were all liberal arts and I was on a scholarship that lasted for four years so I had no time to change my major- now I’ve got a degree in Film and Video Production and work as an academic advisor. I guess you just end up where you end up sometimes 🙂

    • paigetopus October 24, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

      very true! not everything works out how you thought it would but that’s not always a bad thing 🙂

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