I have always known I wanted to be a teacher. But it was no easy path in getting to where I am today. I feel like I could easily sing the Rascal Flatts song "Bless the Broken Road" about my teaching career, rather than about my love life. I followed a very broken path, but a path that is my own and made me the teacher I am today. God had everything worked out perfectly, and as I look back and reflect, I am thankful for all I overcame.
But I almost got in the way. I almost ruined it all. And I want to share my journey with you because it made me who I am today. I hope it will inspire you, motivate you, or touch you in some way. I know we all go through difficult seasons of our lives and careers, and as I go through a difficult school year as I write this, reflecting on the path I've taken to where I am now, the growth I have made as an educator and a person, helps me continue that growth and to be encouraged through this season. I hope it will encourage you as well, especially if you need it.
You see, I've know most of my life I wanted to be a teacher. I spent my days, like many of you probably did, playing school at home. I would use my allowance money at the teacher store for reward certificates and star stickers. I would teach my little sister and "grade" her papers. I was the "Teacher's Pet." I loved school, school supplies, and had so much school spirit in high school, it was a tad sickening.
But, in high school, I started to fight it a bit. I thought about becoming a reporter or radio DJ because I loved sports and country music. I wanted to either be a sports anchor on ESPN or something (I loved baseball) or host my own show on the radio in Nashville (I was wildly obsessed with Kenny Chesney). I applied and attended a year away at college for Communications. But God had different plans. I had two roommates who I didn't get along with, one was particularly awful, and spent most of my freshman year of college either alone, studying, or driving home to see my boyfriend (now Hubby!)
I realized I should be home, and one late night while my roommate was so rudely keeping me awake before finals, I got fed up and applied for our local college. I also immediately changed my major to Early Childhood Education. I don't know what exactly prompted that.. all I can say is that God took hold of the moment.
I also realize now that I have always been made to teach. It comes so easily and naturally to me, that I literally can NOT do anything else.
Fast forward a few years, and I was finishing college. I had an amazing TEC field experience with a teacher I could envision myself becoming later on in my career. I learned a lot and entered my student teaching, my final semester, with so much enthusiasm and confidence. I was ready to take on the world, take her classroom by storm, and change lives.... but, I didn't. It was awful. I went from flying high to crashing and burning. It was absolutely the darkest 4 months of my life... and it shouldn't have been.
It was the fall. Christmas was approaching, I was engaged, and getting ready to graduate college. I was wedding planning, the date set for 6 days after graduation. And I hated every bit of what I was doing on a daily basis.
I entered the school building and classroom with so much fear and anxiety every day, that looking back, I was a shell of myself. I was not at all who I was supposed to be. I was sad, broken, and felt so alone inside.
I cried every night. I even cried in the bathroom during school. I spent hours planning and planning lessons, completely alone and terrified that I was doing it wrong, because my teacher made me feel like I made every wrong decision. That I wasn't good enough.
I don't think she liked me as a person. I think our personalities were very different, and unfortunately, it was held against me. I could hear it the moment I first spoke to her on the phone, and could see it the first day I met her at school. She didn't like some of the things I did, and instead of talking me through curriculum (which I hadn't even seen in any of my teacher prep courses) she went straight to her principal. I still remember the principal asking me to come to her office, walking in and seeing that teacher sitting there. She had a smug smirk on her face. Like she was happy with what she was doing to me. I remember the fear in that moment, realizing I would more than likely fail, and wouldn't even be allowed to teach ever again, let alone graduate.
I had no more passion. I didn't want to teach anymore.
I vividly remember sitting in a seminar our instructors gave for us as we were approaching graduation. They passed out some papers about what we could do with a degree in Education beside classroom instruction. I phased out of the session and simply studied that paper intently because I fully believed I wasn't going to use my degree to teach. I was going to find something else to do with it. It was so sad. I was heart broken during what was supposed to be one of the best learning opportunities of my career, and one of the happiest times of my life.
With God's grace and strength, I somehow survived emotionally, and graduated. Dave and I got married six days later. We went on our honeymoon, celebrated Christmas, rang in 2009, and I was convinced I would never be a teacher. I was scarred. I was hurt. I was terrified to ever teach again because I was convinced I was the worst teacher to walk the face of the earth.
I was working at a jewelry store that final semester of school, and decided I would just work there. After graduating, I started working full time and they offered me a management position. I decided that I could try to do that. I could work my way up to being a store manager, make good money, start a new career, and all would be well. That degree was a back-up.
But it wasn't. I was fooling myself.
That April, a friend dragged me to a job fair. While all of my friends went to the local school districts to try to really find a job, I interviewed with schools in Colorado and Texas, and even talked to a school for nannies. I was so convinced I wouldn't teach again, that I sabotaged myself and didn't look into anything productive. I knew my husband wouldn't move across the country. I knew we would never leave our hometown, our parents just a few miles away from us. I was still that defeated.
That summer, a friend of mine started working at a preschool. I was happy for her to be fulfilling her dream. A position became available for another preschool teacher, and she mentioned it to me. I started to think about it, and the tug to teach started to come back. I was restless. I was just working retail. I didn't like it. It wasn't my passion. I wasn't fulfilling my purpose in life, and thankfully, I was realizing it.
Like I posted in the title... when all else fails, TEACH.
Everything else had failed me. I just needed to trust and teach.
By August, I had put in my notice at the jewelry store and was signed up to substitute teach in my county. A teacher friend of mine, from my alma mater, requested me to be her substitute for her first grade class one day, and I got my foot in the door. The rest is God's amazing plan that I can't help but think about with tears as I write this.
In November, they offered me a new Title Coaching position for 3rd & 4th grade for the rest of that year, and even the next year. I spend close to 2 years making friends, regaining my confidence in myself as a teacher, and gaining such amazing experience and classroom insight. God was setting me up for where I am now.
I finished that job, and they didn't hire me. The only available position was filled internally, and I had nothing. I was devastated. Before my crushing student teaching semester, my dream was to get a job as my home elementary school, coach Varsity Cheerleading, and be a Maplewood Rocket the rest of my life.
But, that didn't happen.
I started taking classes that summer for my 4th and 5th grade endorsement. I had only one job prospect. ONE. At the school I am teaching at now. I interviewed.... and I got it. I prayed so hard for it, and God gave it to me. He fulfilled my dream, and looking back, it's because it was HIS dream for me. I finally followed the broken road that led me to His purpose for my life and career. Fast forward almost 5 years, and I discovered TpT, started this blog, using social media, and my passion is now a roaring fire!
It's not pretty, but it's my journey. I'm still scarred. I spilled a lot of tears as I wrote and read this post. It still hurts. I'm still not sure of myself as a teacher. Those 16 weeks of student teaching broke my heart and my spirit and I am STILL working to recover, over 7 years later. I'm still terrified I'll run into that teacher when I'm out and about shopping.
I almost let one person and one awful field experience define me. Okay, I didn't almost let it, I did let it. But I am so glad God didn't let it.
I think I overcompensate sometimes to prove to myself that I'm good enough. That I am NOT the horrible person and teacher I was made the feel my senior year of college. But, I also learned a lot about myself from that time. As I look back, I can see that it made me grow in a lot of ways. It wasn't easy, but it was a season that taught and prepared me for such better times. And I struggle now, in a new season of my career, I can look back with encouragement that I can do this. Because God has blessed my broken path, and has led me to exactly where He needs me to be.
I am a teacher... and I am O-H So Blessed.