If you are a teacher, then you are probably familiar with this introductory exercise at a teacher workshop.....
"Welcome to our workshop. Let's get to know each other. Go around the room, and when it is your turn, tell us your name, where you teach and how long you have been teaching."
Then, we proceed to go around the room and every teacher shares this information.
There are teachers who proudly announce that they have been teaching 29....32...35+ years. These teachers get a wide-eyed look and a barely audible gasp from the rest of us. We don't have to say it, we all know what they rest of us are thinking....."How did you do it? Will I be able to hold on that long?"
There are teachers who timidly inform the group that they are "first year teachers." These teachers are given a sweet smile and a look of encouragement. We don't have to say it, but the rest of us are thinking...."Will she make it through her first year?"
And then, there are the rest of us. The "somewhere in-betweens".
In the 16 years that I have been teaching, I don't know if I have EVER attending a workshop where this wasn't done and I have attending MANY workshops.
Although we often identify ourselves by the school we teach at and the number of years we have served, there is so much more to us than that. We all have a story.
My teaching story began as a child playing school with my siblings.....just the same beginning as probably 90% of other teachers. I dreamed of working with children my entire life.
My original plan was not to become a teacher, but to own a day care. My heart was really drawn toward the youngest of children and not so much toward the "big kids". I figured that if I owned a daycare, that I could be surrounded by babies and toddlers and preschool kids all the time. So, I went to college and earned a degree in Early Childhood Development. As I was finishing up my degree, we bought a little plot of land in town and had plans drawn up to build a day care center. I began to tell people about my plans and already had a waiting list for enrollment. Long story short.....the day care didn't work out. We entered into a fight to have the property in town we bought rezoned for business instead of residential. We lost.
So, I moved on to another plan. I continued my college education and earned a degree in Elementary Education. My dreams quickly changed from daycare owner to teacher. My whole heart went into my new career path and I never looked back.
After finishing my degree, I frantically searched for a job in an area where teachers were aplenty. Just days before the new school year, I was hired as a 4th grade teacher in a local school. But, there was a catch. The school was going through some growing pains. They had plenty of kids to warrant the new 4th grade unit, but did not have a physical classroom to put us in.
My first year teaching was not optimum circumstances....to say the least. I had 23 students on my class list, but they were physically split among three other classrooms. I had to rotate around to the other classes to see my students. It was basically a new teacher's worst nightmare.....but I was so thrilled to have a job that I didn't complain a bit. I did eventually get an actual classroom at that school later in the Spring. It wasn't until then that I felt like a "real" teacher. 4th grade definitely wouldn't have been my first choice for a grade level assignment. I would've preferred to be assigned to a younger grade. But, to my great surprise, I enjoyed the 4th grade kids very much! They were big enough to be basically independent, yet young enough to still enjoy playing games and writing little sweet notes to me.
I spent 7 years at that school in 4th grade when I got the opportunity to move to a school closer to my house and into Kindergarten. Double score! I was thrilled, but completely unprepared.
The first day in Kindergarten came and hit me like a Mack truck! It was basically just survival. And barely even that. If you have never been in charge of 18 five year olds when they enter school on the first day, you cannot fathom what it is like. Crying. Puking. Out of seats. Bathroom accidents. Loud voices. Into everything. Chaos.
Miraculously, I got the hang of it and the kids did, too. After a couple of days, I had fallen in love with those chubby cheeked kids who thought I hung the moon. I had found my niche. I found my little corner of the world where I fit just perfectly.
I will be starting my 10th year in Kindergarten this year. I can't imagine teaching a different grade level. There are moments of difficulty for sure, but the joy I find in teaching kids to read and sing and paint and count and subtract and explore and to be kind to others is a joy that I don't think you will find in another grade level. I am right where I need to be.
My name is Jennifer. I teach at Blountsville. I have taught for 16 years. That's my story.