It’s been awhile, I’ve been pretty busy. I’ve missed this part of my life…
As part of my student orientation at WGU, I’m required to get involved in the online Communities, to visit certain WGU Communities and post something. This is actually pretty important because this is the only way to interact with other students. Failure to use the Communities at my school could be a barrier to successful completion of your education. You can’t do this in a vacuüm. So in this particular “thread” the moderator wanted students to post advice to other students based upon our own experiences if we’re already working in the field where we are now pursuing a degree.
Right, like I’m qualified to give advice about being a teacher. So, I shared how I arrived at this point. I doubt anyone actually reads it, but it was a good exercise for me. Here is what I wrote:
“If you’re thinking about teaching…
I’m starting the BA Interdisciplinary Studies K-8 program on July 1. Last year in November I landed a job as an instructor in a remedial reading program called HOSTS (Help One Student To Succeed). My students are second and third graders. Volunteers from the community come to my classroom and read with my students for an hour a day. This job has changed my life. I found my calling at the age of 44. I’m a little apprehensive about coming into public education in the current “climate” when so many are leaving, but I just know that this is what I’m supposed to do. So, here I go…
Teaching is not a career choice that should be made without having done something, even on a volunteer basis, that exposes you to what it’s all about. For the past 10 years I’ve been working from home so I could devote myself to my kids and the care of my husband’s aging parents. I began to volunteer in my children’s school pretty frequently. Kids used to say to me, “Mrs. Wormald, do you work here?” When I would say no, they would reply “Well, you should.” The turning point for me was when a sixth grade boy said to me “Mrs, Wormald, you should go back to school and get your teaching certificate. You would make a GREAT teacher!” It brought tears to my eyes. Those of you with children, particularly boys, may understand. Boys don’t just say things like that. I had somehow inspired that child without even realizing it. It was a life-altering moment. I started nosing around the HR site for jobs in our school system, but thinking they would probably never hire me. I didn’t finish college and I’ve never worked in education. I got called for an interview on a Wednesday afternoon, interviewed for my job on Friday afternoon, and started the following Tuesday. It was meant to be.
If you’re thinking about becoming a teacher, I strongly suggest you sign up to work in as a substitute teacher. Typically they require you to have about 60 college credits of any kind. It doesn’t matter what kind. It can be a technical program, or basket-weaving. I don’t know of a school district that has enough reliable people in the sub pool. In my district, there are many jobs each day go unfilled. They need good people! Pick the school district you live in or one close to you so you can minimize commuting and take jobs that pop up last-minute. You will find out quickly if teaching is for you.
Spending your life being responsible for hoards of other people’s children is really intense. Think about your current place of employment and what goes on there, the language people use, the conversations that take place. Yes, we talk in the teacher’s lounge. But we have to be at our personal family friendly best all day every day. Patience isn’t just a virtue, it’s the difference in whether you have a career or you don’t. The whole summers off thing…if we didn’t have summers off we’d go insane. It took weeks for me to just relax a little. When you teach, one of your worst nightmares is that you over-sleep and you’re not in your classroom when your students arrive. I’ve actually had this nightmare! You go to work no matter how bad you feel. Sometimes you choose other people’s kids over your own (not always, but sometimes). You have to be able to quickly and confidently convey to large, diverse groups of children how you’re going to allow yourself to be treated. It is not for the faint of heart.
BUT, if you have what it takes it is the most rewarding experience you could ever possibly imagine. Successes are sometimes big, but often they’re small. Nevertheless, you celebrate them. If you don’t or can’t, you won’t be happy. In baby steps you shape the lives of the future of our society.”
I left something out of that post. The Superintendent of my school district, my supreme boss, does a monthly breakfast at different schools around the district. The breakfast has a really catchy, funny name that is a play on his name. A couple of months after I started my job, he had one of these breakfasts at the school where I work. It’s hard for me to get to work early because I have my own children to deal with in the morning, but I made it and that, too, may have been a life altering experience for me.
While people were stuffing their faces and sucking down coffee, our Superintendent was talking. For whatever reason, he brought up his dad–his 70-year-old dad who is not quite ready to retire from teaching. As I listened, I learned that teaching was a second career for his dad and he didn’t start doing it until the age of 50!!!! My ears perked up; my everything perked up. It had not taken very long after starting my job for me to realize that I may have found “it”–that thing I’d been looking for all these years with no real clue what it was or where I’d find it. But self-deprecating Laura kept whispering that even if I went back to school now, who was going to want to hire me by the time I graduate. I’d be too old, so why bother.
This whole experience took place in less than 15 minutes. I left that breakfast meeting that day thinking that if his dad could start over at the age of 50, I can start over at 45. It’s one of those moments I think I’ll remember forever.
I’m making this part of my journey very public for a reason. I also did this when I quit smoking 27 months ago. If I fail, I’ll have to fail in front everyone I know. It keeps me honest.