Monday, September 9, 2013

A Letter to Myself

I am now a full time graduate student, which means that I spend most of the day in my pajamas telling myself I can't watch anymore TV until I do some work. Today, I completed one of my first assignments: a letter to myself, reminding me why I want to become a teacher.

You're on your way to becoming a teacher. At moments, you feel certain that this is what you want. You imagine all of the wonderful men and women who taught you over the years and you are overwhelmed with gratitude. How did they do it? How can you be like them? As a student you saw your teachers (the good ones, anyway) as wise, kind and constant. Now that you are stepping into their shoes, you imagine that there must have been times when they felt as you feel now: scared and small in the face of all you must do and be for yourself, your students, their parents, and the system. You know there are moments when the job you do will feel impossible. Fight the fear, push through the frustrations, and remember that there are ten reasons for becoming a teacher for each one against.  
You love people, especially young and awkward people. You love to share with them and to learn from them. You treasure their stories and their potential, you are humbled when you think of the opportunity you will have to be a positive presence in the lives of your students. What's more, you love adventures and working with people is always an adventure. Remember, however, that adventures are not always fun. You also like to be bossy and this is your chance. 
When you think of becoming a teacher, you think of some of the things you loved about being in school: the challenge of learning something new and how good you felt when you accomplished something that was not easy. As a teacher, you will be challenged every day to be an expert in your content area, to create lessons that will engage and grow your students' knowledge. Being a teacher will be one of the hardest things you will ever do, but that is part of the reason you want to teach. You can see that the most difficult things in life are often the most important (like not eating an entire bag of chocolate chips in one sitting even though you really want to). Your character will be refined as you are constantly striving to be the best of yourself. You will learn things from your students you did not know they could teach you. 
You want to teach because you can't help but to keep returning to the idea of teaching. You have tried to stay away, to find a job that pays more and requires less. (You could have been a movie star if you weren't always eating bags of chocolate chips.) You looked for jobs like teaching, all the while telling yourself you didn't want to spend the rest of your life in a classroom... But you do, you want to teach and you want so badly to be good at it. You want the chance to share your favorite books; to lead meaningful discussions; and to equip your students with the skills they need to make reasoned, well-supported claims in their writing and in their lives. You want to provide a safe place for those who need it and a scary place for teenagers who think they are the shit.  
You are at the beginning of the process but you are not far from having a classroom of your own. Now, act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly as you join the ranks of some of the most special humans on earth: (English) teachers. 

If you are already a teacher and you are finding some serious (albeit adorable) misconceptions in my letter, don't tell me. Finding out for myself will be half the fun and, then, if I call you crying one day because none of my students appreciate Shakespeare, you won't be able to say "I told you so."