At age five I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I was the cliche kid who would line up her dolls and teach them, grade papers for non-existent students, and instruct a my teddy bears on the finer points of spelling (ironic given that as an English teacher I rely heavily on spell check and am constantly grateful that Google Chrome points out spelling errors for me as I blog). My childhood practice coupled with the fact that my mother was a teacher made teaching the obvious profession for me. Five years into it. I can honestly say I'm good at what I do. My cooperating teacher during my student teacher told me that I had the "teacher gene." While I will agree that many aspects have come naturally for me, and I do often enjoy it, I can't believe that I'll do this forever.
Don't get me wrong, I know that I've impacted lives. I know because I have a box of letters telling me so. This box is where I turn when I'm at my wits end with my students, profession, and colleagues. This the box I turn to when I want to quit my job and search for a nice 9-5 where I can not be invested in others. (Paper pushing has an allure when you've explained for the umteenth time to yet another parent that the best way for her child to succeed in English is to "come to class, do his homework, and ask me if he has any questions.") This box houses the letter of a student who wrote to me about finding out that she was pregnant and that more than being concerned about what her parents would say, she was worried about what I would think. Just under that letter is one from another student who writes about how important it is that I was the only teacher who gave him a chance. There are a dozen or so of these letters, yet on days when I'm most frustrated, I forget about this box. Complaints about homework overshadow thank you's for being understanding. It's hard to remember that I make a difference, but crucial that I do. These letters keep me going.
With new opportunities on the horizon and parenthood presenting itself in the next three to five years, I wonder if these letters will keep me going, or if I'll hand in my chalk for other adventures. When I started teaching five years ago, I said to my mother (the most dedicated and phenomenal teacher I've had the privilege of knowing) that as long as I impacted one life in my entire teaching career it would all be worth it. I was young(er) and (more) naive then, but I think I was right. After all, good teachers should want to change the world one kid at a time, thus if we only change one kid, the world can be better. If there does come a time that I leave the classroom, at least I know that I will leave having achieved the dream of that five year-old little girl who was intent on Paddington Bear knowing how to spell.