For as long as I can remember, I never wanted to be a teacher. I remember telling my friends, family, and teachers about my dreams of becoming a marine biologist, then a music producer, then an astronaut, and for a really long time, a pharmaceutical scientist. However, when the time came around to apply for university I suddenly changed my mind. It very well may have been anxiety about failing or simply how un-ready, and intimidated I was by the thought I would have to pick a career now that I would be in for the rest of my life, but I just couldn’t decide what I would do. Those around me tried to encourage me to just do what I felt was right and to take things as they came, but the moment I said the word ‘teacher’ everyone immediately latched on. I already knew that to be satisfied in my career I would have to be helping people in some way and, over the months leading up to my final day in high school, I also grew a sort of fondness for little learners. The moment I submitted my application to the university I was reminded of a time in elementary school that I believe was the final push to get me to apply to Elementary Education.
I am sitting in a tiny office across the table from my career counsellor, a laptop shining brightly on my face as I type in my last bit of information. My mouse hovers over the submit button and before I can press down on the keypad I remember him; the intern that came into my grade four class at Crescent Valley Elementary School. It was my third year with Mrs. Wallis and seeing another adult in our class was fascinating. The first day he arrived he walked through the class, taking a seat beside each student to get to know them. He asked each one of us what our favourite animal and colour was, not thinking much of it we easily surrendered this extremely important information to a near stranger. Weeks go by until one day he walked in with a surprise for us all; he had made laminated bookmarks for every student with our favourite things on them. Mine was adorned with cute, fluffy kittens and a blue banner spanning the bottom section with my name typed on it. The best gift I had gotten in my life!
I still have my bookmark and I am proud to say it is in near perfect condition, not a single bent corner or stressed crease! It remains among my collection of items that hold my happiest memories and life-changing moments. I couldn’t have imagined that such a small item could hold such a happy and influential memory. It is quite sappy to say so, but it really was the best gift and not just to my young self. That bookmark is what made me click the submit button on my application and it is what forces me to make my dream come true.
I am sitting in a small, dimly lit classroom at a small wooden desk with mountains of papers lining the edges of the rectangular surface. A small, yellow desk lamp sits off to the side casting a warm glow on the spread of spelling tests in front of me. I continue, on and on through the stack of paper marking each word right or wrong and just before flipping to the next page, I add a tiny little sticker to the top. The sun starts to rise to my right and from the trees just beyond the window I can hear the tiny birds start to chirp their morning song. As parents and busses and young learners start to appear on the sidewalks and in the parking lots I begin to prepare myself for the day to come. I make my way around the room, flipping on the light switches as I go by; straightening tables and chairs; springing open the windows to let the refreshing breeze filter into the room. Now I can hear little feet, some walking along with their friends, some zooming through the halls despite the stern words of the other teachers. Laughter and endless conversations fill the halls. I can hear teachers asking their own students how their evenings had passed and I am suddenly giddy for my own students to start arriving with stories of their own.
We’ve moved onto math now and I can’t help but smile slightly at the collective groan coming from just over my shoulder. We start off simple, a review of what had been covered the previous day, but we soon move on to newer and more difficult ideas. I know that some of them will catch on quickly and have prepared some more difficult worksheets for them to move onto. As for the other students, I can see through their squinted, confused eyes and start to feel myself becoming excited. This is, in fact, one of the joys of teaching, working so, so hard, and then seeing their tiny faces light up when I have explained it a new way, a way that connects with those who didn’t feel like they would ever get it. They say that time passes when you are having fun and that is how I would explain the joy that each of my students brings me. The most dreaded subject of the day flies past faster than I can seem to count and although I can hear the sighs of relief at passing another math class I know that each of them is excited to go home at the end of the day and share with their parents how much more they know.
It is now the time of the day that I dread the most, hometime. I feel a sense of disconnect with my students at this moment. They are happy, ecstatic even, to finally be getting to go home and not have to come to school for two whole days! And of course, I watch on with a smile, helping out by tying a shoe here or there and helping make sure that no chins are zipped into any colourful hoodies or jackets. Some rush off to catch the bus or walk with older siblings and some stay back, waiting for their older siblings or parents to pick them up. They all chat excitedly about their plans for the weekend, where they’re going, what they’ll do, who they’ll see. It still takes a few moments after the last student leaves- throwing a “Have a good weekend” over their shoulder as they leave the room- before my smile slowly falls. I make my way around the classroom once again, closing each window delicately; nudging each desk and each chair back into their rightful position; flipping off the light switches as I go by.
I find it unsurprising when I talk with my classmates and hear that this assignment was difficult for the majority of us. When we first started it I was dreading having to sit down and remember something from my childhood that I thought made an impact on who I am now. As we moved on to the second part of the essay I was once again intimated, this time, though, at the idea of looking forward into the future, something we are unable to predict. As we have now moved on to the final piece of the currere essay I find myself almost at a standstill. Our task seems even more daunting this time. Although it is easy to think that we know ourselves when it comes time to say it in words or write it down on a piece of paper, we come to find that it is actually quite difficult. Do we even really know ourselves, will we ever? Or do we simply have to settle for slowly learning more and more parts of who we are until the end?
I know that I am open and loving. I try my hardest to look at every situation from all points of view and although I tend not to agree with the viewpoints, beliefs, or ways of knowing of those around me I still try to understand them and approach those people with hospitality. I am also outspoken, I like to know that others know my opinions as well and I try my hardest to be unapologetic, as I think everyone should be. I am a lifelong learner and always eager to gain new experiences. I love adventure and even though I work best when everything is meticulously planned and organized a little spontaneity never hurt anybody. I guess you could say that I am family oriented, my parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncle, and cousins will always come first to me. I would do anything to make sure that the people I love most in the world feel the support and encouragement that they have provided me with over the years.
I am also not perfect. I have my fair share of flaws and things that I am not proud of. Sometimes I get overwhelmed too easily and I become angry, embarrassed or excited. I often hear from others that I am too loud, that my voices projects farther than it should and that sometimes I just need to “zip it”. I become slightly too obsessive when it comes to certain things especially cleanliness, tidiness, and overall organization. Although I can channel this power of mine it often comes out “micromanage-y”, if I could create a word for it. Sometimes I am not confident in myself, despite countless encouragement from family, friends, or even teachers, I still seem to find myself in pits of self-doubt from time to time. Most of all I am scared. I am still very young but the pressure I feel around me leads me to believe that I’m not doing this right. Do I really want to be a teacher? Will I be a good teacher, will students look up to me or whisper distasteful things behind my back?
As Parker Palmer said in his essay “The Heart of a Teacher,” knowing ourselves is the key point in becoming good educators and I think that this is the purpose of this essay. Learning about ourselves and trying to understand our inner workings is daunting, and rightfully so, but it is also a necessary step in learning about our strengths and weaknesses. Only once we know these can we try to improve ourselves and as we move along, tweaking things here and there, we will become the educators that we strive to be. In my progressive, I do not think that my future-self was their yet. Maybe the missing piece was this reflection of my inner self.