How I Fell into (and in love with) Teaching

Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.  – Confucius

Growing up, all my friends wanted to be teachers.  I wanted to be anything but.  I wanted to be a psychologist, a veterinarian, the President.  Anything but a teacher.  I baby-sat in high school, and was not a fan.  Little kids were just not my thing!

I went to college for Psychology, and had to take a Statistics course.  I had taken 4 years of math in high school, of course.  I liked it, but I wasnt in love with it.  Statistics changed that though.  I just got it.  I loved that class.  LOVED IT.  I didnt put 2 and 2 together for a couple more years though.

After college, I floated around for a couple of years.  Worked in a bike shop, a triathlon shop, for a race director putting on triathlons.  Nothing I was making a career out of.  I decided to take the Massachusetts Teachers Test on a whim and substitute teach for a while.  And at that time I hit a crossroads.  An up and coming politican (who is now a senator) and triathlete, offered me a job.  At the same time, a good friend knew I was taking the MTEL and said he knew of a teaching job.  I had to make my choice.  The closest I had come to teaching was substituting at my old high school for 4 days.  But I went for it.

I went in for an interview at a very urban school.  The assistant principal looked at me, and I could tell he wanted to laugh.  I answered him honestly, and for some reason (thanks to my good references!) he hired me.  I could see in his eyes he didnt think I would last a week.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  Everytime I told someone where I was working, they would tell me “Theyre going to eat you alive”.   Apparently, the only reference they had to inner city schools was Dangerous Minds.  I went in with an open mind, figuring whatever happened would happen.  I was 23.  I had never written a lesson plan, assigned homework….heck, I had never taught someone how to solve an equation.

I was teaching Algebra 1 to the students, learning how to teach as I went along.  It was trial by fire.  I had an awesome mentor, and an even awesomer (I know its not a word, but I am a math teacher not an english teacher!) math coach.  He would come into my classroom, watch what I was doing, and give me real-time feedback.  Or meet with me afterwards and talk about what to change/what was good/where I was going to next.  He would walk around and help the kids too.  He’s the reason I am still teaching!   He taught me to teach.  Day by day went by, and I fell in love with it.  I loved those kids.

Yes, crazy things would happen.  I was teaching deep in the city.  The first fight that happened in my classroom, I almost cried.  The first time a weapon fell out of a pocket, I was speechless.  As time went by, you take it in stride.  Some of these kids had intense, tough, demoralizing home lives.  But they are no different then the kids I teach now–teenagers are teenagers!  These students made me love my job.  They tried hard, they were funny, and they made me love teaching.  Its where I got my first taste of “making a difference”.  That thing teachers always talk about, what makes them come back year after year.

We made it through that year, and at the end, I unfortunately got laid off.  Those kids I taught as Freshman are graduating this year.  I still talk to some of them (they may even be reading this!).  And I will definitely be at their graduation.  I hope those kids will remember me, but really…its my life they changed!  After that year, I knew thats what I wanted to do with my life.

I eventually found another job and am now in my second year teaching there.  I love it all over again!  Looking back, when I growing up thinking about how I didnt want to be a teacher, it never occurred to me to be a high school teacher.  Now I wouldnt want to do anything else!  They  make my job fun.  The moment a kid just gets it makes everything worth it.

The above Confucius quote is true…some days it is hard, but there is never a day that I dont love my job.

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8 responses

  1. You inspire me, kiddo. I need to find that feeling again. I still love the kids, but being jerked around by the district for 4 consecutive years (I’m going to be working WHERE? Oh… do I have a job?) has beaten me down. Now with next year unceratin as to if I have a job, where it will be, and if it will even be full time has made it very difficult to keep heartened. Thanks for the post. It was timely for me!

    • It will come back. You only get as much as you can take. This year has been crazy, but I am young and idealistic and I think next year will work out just fine. Remember how excited we were to work in the same school?!?! Hoping for the best!!

  2. Well, thank God you didn’t try to be President… haha, jk, like I said, do what you have to do to protect yourself, but I really hope you’re back teaching with me next year!

  3. That’s awesome that you found something you love and are able to do it for a living!! So, in MA you’re able to get into teaching without formal training? I live in VA and looked into teacher certification programs, but since I had no education training in college I would pretty much have to start from scratch 😦 Kinda jealous that MA makes it easier!!

    • We have a test we have to take to prove proficiency in the subject first. From there you can teach (assuming you have a college degree!). Then you work on your Masters and your teacher certification (either a program or a practicum!). Its easy to start I think, but the same amount of work as every other state to become Highly Qualified!

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