…I can think of a thousand reasons why I should quit. They make it hard on purpose… there are lives in our hands. There comes a moment when it’s more than just a game, and you either take that step forward or turn around and walk away. I could quit but here’s the thing, I love the playing field.” ~Grey’s Anatomy
It is with that thought that I completed my student-teaching last Thursday. For 11 weeks, I drove 50 miles a day to Winder-Barrow High School and did my student-teaching as part of the requirements for my teaching certification and my master’s degree.
I’ve taught before. During the summer of 2003, I worked with the Sunflower County Freedom Project in Sunflower, MS and I taught print journalism to rising 8th graders. However, as challenging as that was, I still wasn’t what I would consider to be adequately prepared for my experience at Winder-Barrow.
First of all, I taught economics. The only time I’ve ever taken an economics course was in the spring semester of my senior year of high school at The North Carolina School for Science and Mathematics. The class was challenging- and I did okay, but it was really more about the teacher and hanging out with my friends (who also all took the class). Fast forward to now- I wasn’t confident that I knew enough about economics for MYSELF…much less to be able to teach students, all of whom have to take an EOCT (end of course test) at the end of the year. You can imagine my apprehension.
Despite my apprehension, the 11 weeks went very well. There were definitely challenges, and that is to be expected when you deal with 10th-12th graders. However, there were some things that happened during the course of the semester that you can’t ever prepare for, despite your teaching education program. I was not prepared to come in one day and learn that one of my students had suddenly been withdrawn from school because he had been sent to jail. I was not prepared to have conversations about alternative possibilities for school and life with one of my pregnant students. I was aware of, but not prepared for students who are tired or sleeping in class because they must work until the wee hours of the morning to support their family.
Teaching students and being in the classroom is what I love. Despite all the frustrations and exhaustion that I felt during the course of the semester, I have never felt more alive or more fulfilled. Interacting with students, helping them set goals, watching them accomplish more than they thought they could- to me, there’s not anything else that I would want to do. What people don’t understand is the hours of preparation for a single lesson, the mental and physical exhaustion that comes with giving so much of yourself, the time spent grading and devoting yourself to extracurricular activities to support your students. Standing in front of a classroom is actually the last thing- it’s the presentation that comes after tons of preparation.
This semester has been one of the most challenging that I’ve ever had. I thought about quitting. I considered a change of career and academic programs. But I love what I do. Teaching is what I was made for, and despite all of the obstacles, I have been blessed to have an opportunity to practice and sharpen my craft. I hope that all of you are blessed to find what you are made to do- and to then have the opportunity to do it.
“True success does not consist in doing what we set forth to do, nor what we had hoped to do, not even in doing what we have struggled to do. True success consists in doing something that is worth doing.” ~Lawrence Lowell
“…But I dare pray for you that you will discover something in life that is worth doing, not simply something that you’re good at or something from which you make a large profit. That would be nice, too. But I pray that each of you will find something that is worth doing, a true and genuine vocation, which is – as Fred Buechner describes it – where your great joy meets the world’s great need. Oh, I pray for each of you that you will find such a meaning in your lives.” ~Dr. Peter Gomes, 2005 UNC Commencement Address