Jack was a lawyer, when I was newly out of college. I was standing in a box lined with rules to follow, watching, while Jack was out making choices. My parents urged me to pursue a career path leading towards financial security. They wanted an easier life for us. When I look back, I remember the day Jack set aside what my parents would have viewed as a secure life, and took a riskier path. I was watching adults going before me. I was aware of my parent’s wishes, and curious about the choices other people made. Jack wanted a good life for children, and he became a teacher.
I grew up in a small, working class, suburban town. We were children of struggling parents. I remember how people made fun of our high school. I didn’t quite understand why we were looked down on. I wondered if they thought we were getting a lesser education because of where we lived. I wondered if we were lesser people. In hindsight, I’m aware that we had different resources than our neighboring school districts. Yet, the teachers were committed to preparing us for the future. Choosing a school district that others viewed as less than must have been hard, but our teachers wanted a good life for us.
I have come to see that security is a sense gained from those who use their thinking skills to take risks; not something handed to people in boxes. Abundance is earned through relationship and connection and stories passed down through generations. Kids are not math facts. They are not elements on a chart in the classroom. Learners are fluid movers growing and changing. Teachers are bridges helping them from one understanding to another. My parent’s options were scarce, but mine are not. I know that I can make choices.
I was an accountant. Next year, I will walk into a classroom with the opportunity to help learning be a real and tangible thing for children who will someday go out and make a difference for others. I have one task: to teach the way I was taught with character and understanding. I will spread hope as far as it will reach. I will not give up, because I am challenged to persevere. It’s not what we teach. It’s not where we teach. It’s that we teach, whenever we are given the opportunity. I will never stop being thankful for those who urged me to dream and inspired me to explore different paths. I want to honor my teachers with character and authenticity. I want a good life for children, so I will help them use words and stories in ways that matter to them.
I was asked why I want to be a teacher and my mind was flooded with memories. It’s not that I recall the periodic table, perfect sentence structure, or how to use the Pythagorean Theorem. It’s that I picture the faces of the people who taught me those things. I can remember how they interacted with me and whether or not they were present in my learning. In my memories I see the faces of people who took time to teach me something, not only in a school building. My memories are imprinted with the character they offered and countless hours spent walking me through life. I still see them waiting in the wings, cheering. It is never too late to live a good life.
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