The Teacher

At 16, I decided I wanted to be a teacher, like my grandmother and my mother. Seven years later, I graduated with my Bachelor of Education, but didn't try to find a job. It has taken me 25 years to figure out what happened and how it could happen. How I could let it happen.

Here's the why it happened:
The high school teacher supervising my final practicum told me "I shouldn't be a teacher". Apparently, that information dropped deep inside me into a vault that locked tight. I never told anyone -- not my parents or my best friend or any of the friends with whom I went to teachers' college -- what that teacher said. I just told myself, and others, that I wasn't ready to teach (and I didn't have the confidence to be a substitute teacher) and I went on to do other things.
Sort of. 

I bounced around, is what I did. Never knowing what I was looking for or what I was supposed to be doing. I think I got married the first time, at the age of 26, because that was something solid and settled and accomplished. That's not a reason to get married. 

Fourteen years ago, when I first moved to Nova Scotia, I became a substitute teacher.  Until that move, I'd been helping to take care of a father with Alzheimer's disease and he'd spent the last few years of his life in a nursing home. I figured if I could handle everything that happened in the locked unit for residents with dementia, I could handle being a high school substitute teacher. 

What I know now is this: The fear of failure, the lack of confidence instilled in me by that supervising teacher kept me from taking teaching seriously. I saw it as a side-gig to support my writing, but I also got bored easily -- you don't do much teaching at the high school level. I eventually stopped subbing when I took a job at the community newspaper  -- and that job helped me get my first book published.
After that, I started my work as a lay worship leader. Writing, writing, writing. Not making much money but loving my work. 

It wasn't until I wrote a novel for Middle Grade-aged children and decided that I needed to hang around the kids who were the audience for my book that the vault unlocked and that memory -- that life-altering statement -- flung itself into the my conscious mind. 
All because I decided to sub at the elementary level, rather than high school. 

What I realized then, and had failed to realized from my student teaching experiences and my actual experiences as a substitute, was this: 
It's not that I shouldn't be a teacher
but perhaps I shouldn't be a high school teacher. 
I might have been a really great Grade Four or Grade Six, or even Grade Eight teacher.

That memory gave me a new focus, and a renewed commitment, for being a teacher. I enjoy subbing at the elementary level because you actually get to teach, not simply sit or walk around watching students do seat work for one hour.

You know how some of us think about being shown a certain path, being called to a certain kind of work, believe our lives have a particular purpose? I'm wondering now if I kept circling back to teaching, that I couldn't let it go because I am meant to be a teacher. 

Oprah Winfrey once said something like this: 
You have certain lessons to learn in life, and if you don't learn them the first time, they keep coming around to teach you -- only they get more serious and more difficult and more pointed each time. 

My first life lesson is this: An obstacle is not a wall. It's not permanently blocking your path. You don't ignore them. You don't pick a different, "easier" goal/path/direction away from the obstacle. You figure out how to remove the obstacle from your path. Because, perhaps, the obstacle doesn't disappear until you deal with it. 

Which leads to my second life lesson: Yes, I'm a writer, but I'm also a teacher. 
Like so much with life -- and another lesson I'm learning and applying -- it's not either or -- it's AND. 

I am a writer 
and I am a teacher. 

I believe I can love this work as well. If I'm on the right path, then I'll find my place and that will feel right. 

And you know what? I'm still open to teaching high school because sometimes I think the purpose of my life experiences is to help teenagers pursue their dreams, defy those who would tell them no, to help them build their confidence and courage and curiosity about who they are and what they can do with their lives, no matter who tries to push them down or what obstacles appear in their path. 

Persistence and faith go hand in hand. Some of us need a little more time to believe in ourselves and realize the path we've been avoiding...is the path we're meant to walk. 


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