You can rightfully curse me when you find yourself singing Peter Pan for the rest of the day.
The ladies at Girl Talk Thursday asked, “What’d you wanna be when you grew up?”
Maybe it’s because my mom always worked in a school (at least when I knew her), or maybe it’s because I sincerely loved learning, but with very few exceptions, I don’t remember ever wanting to be anything as much as I wanted to be a teacher.
There was the brief desire to be a marine biologist – until I realized you actually had to know how to swim. Then there was the much longer desire to be an actress (first a soap opera actress – thanks, Mom – then a Shakespearean actress, followed by the classic dreams of Broadway) – until I realized you actually had to have talent and be willing to wait tables while trying to get “discovered.” When I got more into the production aspect of theatre in high school, there were fleeting dreams of becoming a concert lighting designer or a theater’s stage manager, but in the end, it came back to the thought, “I want to share my love of theatre with young people.” In the end, it always came back to teaching.
I spent many an afternoon reenacting my favorite classes, as is evidenced by this picture I found that I cannot believe I’m going to share with you.
I was content to line up my stuffed animals and teach them in the confines of my bedroom until I finally made a friend with a little brother who we could force to be our student (I still think we deserve partial credit for how smart he turned out to be). Taking full advantage of my mother’s access to book rooms and learning manipulatives, my friends and I experienced a pretty privileged version of make believe (in that we didn’t have to make believe much at all). When I got older, I started tutoring, and I even got to help teach little ones the summer before college.
It was during my junior year of high school that I fell madly in love with literature and finally decided on my area of certification. Once I got to college, it was just a matter of making it happen.
For five wonderful years, I taught English-language arts, reading, drama, and even SAT math prep (somewhere, my high school geometry teacher, whose class I failed, just passed out). I taught hundreds of students in every grade of middle and high school, and every kind of student you can imagine from honors to drop-out prevention to alternative education. It was challenging and fun and sometimes heartbreaking. And though it sounds cliché, it’s true: I learned as much from my students as I taught them. (In fact, they’re the ones who inspired me to follow my dream of writing a novel.) I don’t know how many of them remember when to use a comma or where down right stage is, but hopefully the vast majority remember that there was at least one adult in their life who gave a damn.
My kids are all grown up, a few with kids of their own now. In my mind’s eye, though, they’ll always be my babies, memories of their laughter, their successes, and their personal growth forever etched into my heart.
These days, I no longer teach. I continue to be an educator, but in a very different capacity. The truth is, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Fortunately, I’m not planning to grow up anytime soon.