When I was in high school, my friends asked me all the time if I was going to become a teacher. My mom is a teacher. A cousin is a teacher. Two cousins are principals. Teaching runs in my blood. Did I want to be a teacher when I was in high school? Nope! Did I ever see myself teaching? Nope! I was going to law school and practice estate law. That was the dream in high school.
I majored in English and political science and minored in education on the advice of my advisor so that if I changed my mind about law school, I had more than a degree in English and political science. And, low and behold, my senior year, I decided I didn’t want to go to law school after all. But, I didn’t necessarily want to teach, either. I had no clue what I wanted to do.
Long story short, after graduation, I decided to teach for a year or two and figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. What I found out was…I wanted to be a teacher. I love teaching. It’s my calling. It just is. Even when it’s hard, I’m drowning in paperwork, I have parents to call, and a billion papers to grade, I love my job.
I’m blessed to teach at a high school with an amazing administration, faculty, and staff. The student body, overall, are good kids who want to learn. Yes, we have our days where we wonder if there’s a full moon coming, but that’s true of any job.
One of my concerns, as I face surgery, has been how to make sure my classes don’t fall behind. I have a great substitute, a retired English teacher who taught at the campus and knows everyone and everything, and I know my kids are going to be in excellent hands. But, I worry, and I promised my students that what I’m leaving them to do is exactly what we would do if I were there or not. I know they’ll be taken care of by every teacher in my department, but still. I worry, and it’s hard, it’s so hard, to worry about myself over them because being able to go to work everyday during this crazy time has been one of my saving graces. My students have helped take care of me. I have to take care of them. It’s not in my nature to do otherwise.
I teach AP English Language and Composition to juniors and seniors, and I teach sophomore honors English. My AP kids are staring the AP test in the face in a few short months. My sophomores face the mandatory state exam in a few short weeks. My students are nervous about my upcoming absence. They don’t want to fall behind. I don’t want them to fall behind. So, everyday since I found out when my surgery is, I’ve been writing detailed lesson plans for my substitute. I’ve been breaking down units. I’ve collected things that need to be copied. I’ve made a calendar for while I’m out to sequence the plans for my substitute. I’ve uploaded things to my Google Classroom. Making sure my students are taken care of has been the weight on my shoulders since Monday of this week. But tonight, I can breathe a little easier.
This is what I’ve worked on for hours. Lesson plan after lesson plan. A unit broken down. A calendar of lessons. The scope and sequence and handouts are from NMSI. The lesson plans, the explanation of how to teach this unit, and the calendar are mine…the unit put into how I teach using really good material. My AP students are set (my sophomore plans will be finished tomorrow…the lesson plans are done, I just need to finish my calendar). Eleven lesson plans encompassing a major text, five supplemental texts, two major written assignments, quizzes, discussions, group work, creative assignments, games, and intensive analytical assignments. It’s spelled out for me, for my substitute, who I am blessed to have taking my classes, and my students. It has taken me five days, two to four hours a day, to assemble these plans. It’s been a labor of love because I do love my job. I love what I’ve created for my students to do based off the NMSI unit. And, I wish I could be there to see the progression of learning and understanding with my students.
That’s why I teach. I believe in my students. I tell them I expect so much because I know they’re capable of so much. Watching them conquer a concept and seeing the stunned look of “I get it now,” is why I teach. Knowing I make an impact is why I teach.
So, yes, I’m a teacher. Like my mom, who has been my role model and mentor along with a handful of other teachers I’ve been privileged to work with over the years. And, now, I know why my mom has taught for thirty two years now and doesn’t retire. When it’s your calling, when you love what you do, you just do. Not because it’s your job. It’s your life.