I didn't always want to be a teacher. I was actually discouraged from being a teacher growing up. Funny, because both my mother and father were educators. I think they felt I could do so much "more" with my life. I was fortunate to have the opportunities to have many doors open to me. I started out in pre-med at UBC but soon found that this didn't really speak to my heart. I floundered for awhile thinking about what it was I could do with my life.
As I came into my adulthood and began to make decisions for myself instead of for others, I knew my heart was calling me to teach. I remember the feeling during my dance classes when a student would look at me after accomplishing something and say, "I did it!" I loved being a part of that learning. After doing some traveling, I applied and was accepted into the first year of a new B. Ed. program at UBC. I still remember the excitement I felt opening my acceptance letter, knowing this was meant to be.
Before I even began teaching there were some things I knew and embraced about being a teacher.
I knew I would love my profession. There would be days that were challenging and there would be days that would be downright joyful.
I knew I would spend time during the evenings and weekends planning, prepping, marking.
I knew lots of dollars from my own bank account would go towards financing my classroom and the type of educational program I wanted for my students.
I knew I would have to deal with a general public who thinks teachers work 9-3 and have summers "off".
I knew I would have to work in the summer to pay off my students loans from my university education and then later, would take courses and go to conferences in the summer as a way to stay professionally current and stimulated and obtain a Masters degree.
I knew that, as with any profession, there are ups and downs and battles and successes.
I knew I wasn't going into teaching for the salary. There were lots more financially lucrative job options for me.
I knew, and truly believed, that I would be able to make a difference in children's lives.
I was beyond excited to start my practica teaching and to get my first contract. I hardly slept because my mind was whirring with ideas and anticipation of the teaching day ahead. I happily got up in the mornings (which was saying a lot for a non-morning person like me) and truly loved my work, challenges and all.
I taught for seveal years at an elementary school and then taught and supervised pre-service (student) teachers at UBC for five years. I have had opportunities to travel across our province and work with teachers and students. I worked in our school board office for many years supporting teachers, parents and students in the areas of science, math and gifted education. I have been able to see teaching and learning from multiple perspectives and I think that has helped me become a better teacher. As I have been out and about doing different things, my heart has called me back to the classroom. I taught kindergarten for a year between my time at UBC and the school board office and last year I made the decision to go back to a school. I was missing the everyday connections with students that I believe are at the core of teaching and learning.
I have learned so much from teaching from my students. Children come to school with joyful wonder and enthusiasm for learning. Embracing and focusing that curiousity is part of the magic that happens in a primary classroom. Children all learn differently and have different interests. Meeting their individual needs and personalizing their learning has always been a priority (not something new for the 21st Century!).
My students have made me laugh out loud, smile with appreciation, cry with understanding and empathy and have rendered me speechless, mouth open with amazement. I have learned from all my students and grown as a teacher but several special students over the years have touched my heart in a significant way.
In my first year of teaching, I had a little boy in my class who hid under tables, ran away from school, yelled and cried and refused to participate in classroom activities. I taught this little guy for three years and spent endless hours with him and his parents, cried, lost sleep over him, read whatever I could find that I thought might help. With the support of colleagues, we figured this little guy out and turned his behaviour around. I watched him grow up in the community into a successful young man. From this student, I learned about perserverance, taking risks, understanding diversity and being an advocate for my students.
This is why I am a teacher.
In my begining years of teaching, I taught a little girl in grade 1 who had developed selective mutism. This was something new to me and I sought out the supportive of the school's speech-pathologist to help me understand this little girl and form a plan to support her. I knew that I needed to develop a trusting relationship with her and worked hard at figuring out what she liked and was interested in. Over time, she began to talk and her confidence in herself grew. I continued to teach her for two more years. Last year, as I was walking along the river with my sons, this "little" girl, now much taller than I and in her twenties, ran up to me and gave me a big hug and she told me all about what she was doing now and we shared some special memories from the past together. From this student, I learned about mutual trust and respect, never giving up, that there are things that need to come first before we can worry about the curriculum and PLOs and most importantly, the importance of a caring classroom community
This is why I am a teacher.
There have been many other special students in my career. The students who taught me about overcoming physical limitations. The students who worked so hard at communicating in English while overcoming cultural shock in such a new environment. The students who couldn't share what they knew in traditional ways but helped me to find ways to express themselves and share their gifts. The students who spent much of their days in their own little worlds but every once in awhile reached out and connected. The gentle touch of one of these students, accompanied by the words, I love you, made my heart swell.
This is why I am a teacher.
These students were included in classrooms in public schools. They are the reason my heart keeps calling me back to teach and the reason I will passionately advocate for support for all students and for the role public education plays in our society.
I am speaking out and working on informing and educating the public about the current conditions and changes the public education system currently faces. Hockey rinks, soccer fields, the line at Safeway...all become opportunities to open a conversation and make a difference for our students.
I am a teacher and I can't imagine doing anything else.