As a little girl, I never gave a lot of thought to what I wanted to be when I grew up. I spent most of my time sitting under trees, in corners, or on the sidelines reading until my fourth grade year. During that year, my teacher was Mrs. A. I will admit she reminded me a lot of Barbara Mandrell with her perfectly coiffed blonde hair and impeccable wardrobe. Mrs. A- was fun but firm and always fair to her students. Her class was always well organized, and I admit I would find ways to stay in from recess, which I hated, and work extra with Mrs. A either helping to clean the classroom, organize books, or running errands which would give me time to read instead of running around. By the end of my fourth grade year, I had decided that I wanted to be teacher like Mrs. A. Teaching was a skill that I had been honing since I was a little girl. I began “teaching” by tutoring my classmates in junior high and high school. I would work with them after school and during breaks. I would often edit their essays for them. I think it was a foregone conclusion that I was going to be a teacher.
I started my teaching career in 1996-a little earlier than I expected. My student teaching was to take place with 10th graders at Petal High School in Petal, Mississippi. My supervising teacher was Mrs. W, and she was one of those toe-the-line teachers-by the book, on time, and professional. I learned a tremendous amount about teaching from Mrs. W-she helped me with lesson plans, bulletin boards, and dealing with unusual class schedules. About ten weeks into the eighteen week program, Mrs. W suffered a cardiac episode and had to be hospitalized. I was left in charged teaching all six of her classes with a substitute who was a deputy sheriff. After the 12 week, mark I was allowed to substitute without supervision, and I continued in Mrs. W’s stead until she returned right before Christmas break. My professors at William Carey awarded me the Secondary Education Major of the year because of my work at Petal.
Since then, I have been teaching for 14 years. I have taught in public schools that were close to been taken over by the state. I have taught summer school. I have taught junior high school which was a non-stop comedy of errors. I have taught with people who taught me, and I have taught with students that I, myself, have taught. I found my current home after I had taken a year-long break from teaching. It fell in my lap, and I have made it my home. Over these years of teaching, this is what I have learned-teachers do not wear one hat. We wear multiple hats, and we perform every single duty under constant scrutiny.
As a teacher, it is my job to be a student. Even though, I have been teaching American Literature, Honors American Literature, and World Literature, I do my best not to become complacent. I study new authors. I study new techniques. I am constantly visiting my co-workers to find new ideas to help me become a better teacher. It is one of the primary reasons to I am working on my Masters. I continue taking classes because I know that I can always improve myself and become a better teacher. I am constantly reading, and the internet has been a blessing to my teaching career. Through Facebook, I can connect with former classmates who are teachers and commiserate and share ideas. Through professional websites, I can get tips to improve my class and help my students. I share this desire for learning with my students. One of my favorite sites is Goodreads.com. I visit them daily to find out about new books and authors or to post about books I’m reading or my friends are reading things. I even learn from my students. If I have trouble with new technology, I will get them to help me learn how to use it better. By teaching me, they are improving themselves as well. Teachers are always students, and we should never cease trying to be better.
As a teacher, it is my job to be a counselor. Many times students simply need someone to be there for them. They just need an ear-someone to listen without casting judgment. I don’t mean became buddies with my student-that crosses a line. I don’t mean becoming their parent; they have parents who should be respected regardless of circumstance. I don’t mean keeping secrets that should be shared with the school counselor or the principal. I mean being there when a student just lost his best friend in a hunting accident-to hold them up, to let them talk it out, to help them come to terms with the tragedy. It is being the voice of reason when a child is working herself too hard and to tell her take a deep breath and to assure here that it will be okay. It is being there to cheer their triumphs and to encourage them in defeat-even if it means dressing like a nerd or an angel or wearing an ugly t-shirt you wouldn’t want to be caught dead. It means forsaking that Diet Dr. Pepper and missing a break that you want so badly to listen to a student who is having a breakdown about another class or who wants you to be the first to hear about a scholarship they are receiving. It is about writing one more letter of recommendation when you just don’t think you have another in you. It means standing in front of a church and singing a solo because they asked you to, when all you want to do is hide beneath your chair. It means embracing children who have been displaced by a hurricane and finding room in your class and your heart for them. Sometimes, it means spending a weekend with 800 over-hyped teenagers at a convention and finding yourself playing wizards, elves, and giants with 100 other people, or singing “Eye of the Tiger” to keep yourself awake, and laughing hysterically until your make-up burns your eyes.
In my opinion, teaching is the best job in the world. I have met some of the most wonderful people-people I would have never met had I not become a teacher. I have taught doctors, lawyers, nurses, therapists, police officers, off-shore drillers, marines, counselors, accountants, mommies, daddies, and closest to my heart-fellow teachers, two of which will be my co-workers when school starts this fall. I have watched them grow into young men and women who will do tremendous things in this world. Through the good and the bad, I am a teacher because I love what I do, or as my outgoing class of 2012 told me “you do it cuz you love us.” Truer words were never spoken.