That Time I Became A High School English Teacher


Over the years, my friend Jessica, a high school teacher herself and one of my absolute best friends growing up, has asked me if I wanted to teach several times. My answer was always no.

I didn't get my degree in education. I pursued two degrees in writing because I wanted to write, to craft stories, to bring characters to life by pressing fingers into keys, by pressing imagination to paper. I wanted to connect and interact with audiences through words committed to pages and screens. Teaching would be a distraction. It would be so full time.

And, if I'm being honest, there was some kind of stigma around it, in my mind. The people I was surrounded by in these writing programs were artists and academics, and teaching anything but college seemed demeaning, a "those who can't do, teach" situation. If I'm really being honest with myself, I don't think I actually felt that way about it, but lots of people around me did, or at least that's the way I perceived their attitude toward education.

Fast forward a little bit and you get 2015 me, busting my butt in retail, living not enough month-to-month but week-to-week, feel exhausted and frustrated and broke and powerless. Feeling like I had too many words that weren't being shared because I didn't have the energy to share them, and also feeling like I had no words because I didn't have the energy to think them. But they were there, churning, eating up my insides. Really I didn't have the energy to articulate them, to commit to them, to do them justice.

And then here was my friend, asking me again if I wanted to teach high school. My answer was yes.

I thought about it a lot before answering. I had taught college classes throughout grad school and missed it. I liked the idea of having a regular schedule, of having weekends off, of having summer vacation time over the summer. I liked the idea of a salary, (underpaid but) a living wage. But mostly I liked the idea of being challenged at work, of being valued, of sharing knowledge and helping young students grow into knowledge, responsible, ethical citizens.

It was the right decision.

It's been a rough couple of months. I'm going through an alternative certification program, which takes up a good chunk of my time and money. It was a challenge getting these students to accept me, a new, young teacher mid-year, after being abandoned by their first one. It was something like culture shock stepping into this new team, this new building, this new way of life, this new position. And there was a lot to freaking do.

But it's also been an amazing couple of months. I've stretched my skills and capabilities. I've bonded with these kids. My most challenging class at the beginning elbowed their way up to being my favorite class by the end. These kids constantly surprised me with their generosity and their creativity and their innocence and their lack of innocence and their honest-to-goodness love. For every moment I wanted to scream with frustration, there was a moment when I wanted to cry with kindness.

My department is being downsized and I might not fit into it again next year. I'm job searching again. I'm waiting to find out what school will become home. Regardless, I'm proud to be a teacher and grateful for the crazy loco life this year has given me and excited to see what comes next.

Yours Truly,
Jen

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