I’m going to begin this post with this caveat: I’m not a classroom teacher, yet. I might not know what I’m talking about. It’s possible no school district will ever want to hire me and I might not ever have a classroom to stand in front of. But. . .
Last Wednesday I attended the first Special Methods in Language Arts class of the semester. I imagined it was going to be a great class before I ever attended because the professor is one of the best I’ve ever encountered. (And I’m not just sucking up.) Two words ran through my head for the entire class period—almost three hours—validated and vindication.
You see I’m a non-traditional college in an extreme sense of the word. I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up until I turned forty. I knew what I was—a reader and a writer—but not what I wanted to do with those two passions. (Of course I would accept my fate if I became a famous novelist, but other than that I had no idea of a career.) I had a lot of jobs: dishwasher, waitress, momma, line cook, bartender, hotel maid, cleaning lady, baker, bartender, graphic designer, administrative assistant, but no career. I tried college once before, right after high school, like normal kids do.
I was forty when a dear friend in my writing group told me I should be an English teacher. She saw that I lit up whenever I talked about a piece of writing or a book I had read. It was obvious I wanted to share what I loved with everyone. It took another year to decide I was brave enough to return to college after an unsuccessful try twenty-five years ago and to work out the finances for my family. My husband and I were raising five kids and I was the main breadwinner. I began on a path to earn my bachelor’s degree in secondary education with a 7-12 grade language arts certification but being an old person I had little patience for the nonsense classes required to get the piece of paper. I failed to meet the pre-requisites to enter the teaching block this fall. I have only myself to blame for that. I still need to graduate in May 2016 so I changed my major and dropped the plan to graduate as a certificated teacher.
I know that certification doesn’t guarantee teaching success. Almost every teacher and college professor I talked too, told me that their education classes had not prepared them for the classroom. The college education department warned me that I would never get a teaching job if I didn’t follow their plan. Instead of continuing down a path that wasn’t right for me, I spent the summer working and reading. I read all kinds of books– forty or fifty of them, I would guess. And I made a serious effort to keep an actual writer’s notebook instead of scribbling random bits of stories, catchy phrases or meaningful quotations on assorted scattered papers. I was lucky enough to receive a scholarship to a writing conference, so I went and it was awesome. The first day of Methods class I learned that what I call goofing off, and my husband calls avoiding housework, was actually one of the best kinds of professional development.
What do you need to be a great English teacher? An authentic literate life. A life spent reading and writing. I got this. This is validation of what I intuitively knew but didn’t trust to be correct. It is vindication for not feeling guilty about failing to get into block.