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April 09, 2008

Confessions from a Teacher

Tech_savvy I never wanted to be a teacher.  My mom taught elementary school and I swore I never would.  Before the start of every school year I helped her set up her classroom.  I sharpened pencils, checked out books, filled desks with supplies for her students, and made nametags.  During the year I helped her grade papers, listened to her call parents, and heard her talk about her students, colleagues, administration, and the challenges that came with the teaching profession.  I knew the good and the bad that came with teaching and I didn’t want to be involved.

Majoring in psychology while in college and spending time working with children in our affiliated lab school didn’t change my mind.   I enjoyed my time in the classroom but didn’t see myself doing it full time.  Upon graduating from college I was determined to become a clinical psychologist to help troubled children. 

I started my graduate program and was halfway through it when I had a revelation.  I was doing a practicum that put me back in the classroom working with children and realized that I could become a clinical psychologist and help a few children at a time or teach and help an entire class at once.  That was the moment when I realized teaching was in my blood.   

I graduated and got a job teaching first grade.  My first year was everything veteran teachers always say it is- hard!  My very first day one of my students fell off the play structure and broke his arm.  I went home, called my mom and cried.  I told her that I could never go back.  My mom, the veteran teacher who had seen it all, said it would get better.   

The year was full of ups and downs.  I developed great lessons that engaged my students.  I tried all kinds of classroom behavior management techniques only to feel like I was failing.  I celebrated as my first graders went from being beginning readers to fluent ones as the year progressed.  I listened in shock as one of my students described how his classmate tried to set the school on fire earlier that same morning then calmly took him to see the principal to relay his story.  I spent the most of my first year in a fog, having no idea what I was doing or if I had made the right decision about my profession. 

Despite my uncertainty about that first year, it was full of learning experiences and the chance to work with some wonderful colleagues who took me under their wing and helped me find my way.  Slowly I found my footing.  I became more confident in my skills and in myself.  I bonded with my students and was recognized for my professional skills through grants I received to develop cross-curricular lessons, acceptance into a prestigious inquiry project that usually reserved spots for more senior teachers, and mentoring opportunities.  And one day my principal came to tell me I had arrived.  Parents were requesting that their children be put in my class.

The fears, frustration, and joyous moments from being a classroom teacher are still fresh in my mind.  But I have no regrets.  I loved the years that I taught.  I loved organizing my classroom for the start of the school year.  The smell of new crayons, sharpening pencils, full bottles of glue, brand new markers, and using my best teacher handwriting to make nametags always brought back childhood memories of helping my mom.  I loved those ah-ha moments where you can actually see the lightbulb go off in a child’s head.  It was always the most amazing thing to watch a student’s facial expression change as they reached a new level of understanding.  I loved having my own classroom and everything that went with it- good and bad.

I now know teaching is in my blood.  Another profession just wouldn’t be me.  Like any job, teaching has its rewards and challenges but there are many victories that come with working with children.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post

Leticia is currently on leave from teaching but works to educate parents about selecting quality technology products for children on her Tech Savvy Mama blog.

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