Thursday, March 7, 2013

Day 7: My Dream Job

I can remember the moment of epiphany when I realized I wanted to be an educator. It was my first day of French class in high school. I was sitting at my desk along with the rest of my class, listening to Ms. Moores speak French at us, and *POP*! It came into my head.

"You know, you should do this."

I'm not going to wax religious or spiritual and say that it was because of some higher power or some past life that brought me to this realization. That's not really important. What is is the fact that, at an age much earlier than many, I knew what it was I could do as a career that would make me happy.

Although I didn't jump right into teaching--at least, not in the way I'm doing it now--I made a conscious effort to look for ways to do the thing I was compelled to do. I spent my summers teaching swimming and water safety and leading wilderness trips, and I was a counselor at a summer camp. I practiced teaching languages under my college professors and did private tutoring in math and languages until I graduated. I was an adjunct professor at a community college, where I ran adult ESL classes.

My wife will confirm that I was initially trepidatious about applying to high schools when we moved back to New England. I was discouraged when it came to being certified; My B.A. in foreign languages doesn't make sense to a lot of people, and they couldn't understand how someone could teach a single language without years of college classes to confirm I knew it. The industry of education, ironically, is not well designed to promote outside-the-box thinking.  Even so, it was experience I needed, if for no other reason than to confirm what the voices in my head had been saying for so long.

"You know, you should do this."

Fortunately, one of the local schools took a chance on my skills, and that started a career of 15 years as a high school French, Spanish and math teacher. In that time, in addition to other smaller, tangential teaching projects, I've worked in a traditional public school and a performing arts focused charter school. Both have been wonderful experiences. Each allowed me to grow as an educator and each helped me to understand that I love my work not for where I work or what subject I teach, but for the broader work of educating. There's so much that people need to know! There's life stuff. How to be responsible. Social skills. How to learn! How to be the best you possible. This is why, I think, I am drawn to education: I have good things to offer about life, and overall I'm pretty effective at helping people to understand it.

I've been working more and more the last couple of years on ways to broaden my audience. I've been speaking at conferences. I've been doing more research into learning styles and how to make them accessible to teachers and students alike. I've not been doing as much work as I know I should be on the Community School idea, but what conversations I've had with people confirms that this is still very much an important project. I have no idea where the next few years will take me professionally, but of one thing I am absolutely certain:

I'll be helping someone learn something.

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