For the past 14 years I have been an educator. While my classroom time has always been in early education (pre-K, K, 2nd grade), through coaching, mentoring, and tutoring I have been able to work with kids of all ages. I guess you could say I define myself as a teacher. It’s all I’ve known and done since I graduated from university. The fact of the matter is, I LOVE TEACHING! Do I love ALL aspects of it? Of course not – I don’t think there’s a teacher who does! But the joys that come from teaching are hard to rival: watching a child enter your classroom not knowing any letters of the alphabet and leaving in the spring being able to read; observing a group of 20+ students come in as individuals and leave as a community; being able to witness independence as it happens…the list goes on and on. Anyone who knows me can attest that I have had my fair share of tough times during my career, but I like to think I came out of those situations a better teacher and a stronger person.
This past February, I had an “experience” that altered my entire view of me as a teacher. Without going into too many details, I will just say this: I had a meeting with some supervisors under the guise of something that needed to be discussed, and when I went into the meeting, I realized it was all a set-up to sabotage me. There were a lot of very hurtful things said that attacked me as a teacher and person. Needless to say, I walked out of that meeting feeling like my world had just been turned upside down. I didn’t understand where all of this negativity and hatred towards me was coming from. I was hurt, angry, and confused. I remember my initial reaction was, “I’m totally calling in ‘sick’ tomorrow” because I didn’t want to go back. But after talking with a friend, I remember her saying, “You have to go in tomorrow – whatever you do – DON’T call in! If you do, it shows they got to you, and they win.” She had a point, and I decided to go in the next day – and every day for the rest of the year. But I feel like from that day forward, I wasn’t the same teacher I was before. I felt I had been betrayed by my supervisors and I didn’t feel I could trust them (or anyone, really) with anything. What’s worse, was I started to doubt myself as a teacher, despite being in my 14th year. I did what I had to do though – I put my nose to the grindstone and made the students in my class the only priority in my work life. It was a rough 4 months but I made it to June. Along the way, I decided not to return to that school but I didn’t have anything lined up. This is very out-of-character for me, but I knew that there was no way I could return given what had happened. So, I gave my notice and left for India in late June, and have been traveling around southeast Asia ever since.
One of the things I’ve been contemplating while traveling is what is next for me. My confidence in teaching isn’t exactly stellar after what happened in February, but I also can’t picture myself doing anything else. Outside of teaching, one of the things I’ve been most passionate about is athletics. I decided to apply to Northeastern University for the Masters in Sports Leadership program. Here is an excerpt from my personal statement that sums up why I decided to apply:
“As an educator of urban youth for the last 14 years, I am dismayed at the shrinking opportunities for youth to participate in these kinds of sport activities. Simply put, there aren’t enough fields, courts, coaches, or infrastructure and the cost is just too high for families. I think back to how sports impacted my life while I was growing up, and I am challenged to make these opportunities accessible to all. My vision is to have a year-round community sports program that specifically serves urban youth. Through grants and private or corporate funding, the program would operate on a sliding scale based on what families can afford. The program would offer a variety of sports throughout the year and would start by teaching the basic skills of each sport with an emphasis on teamwork and positive sportsmanship. Besides learning how to play sports, the bigger goal would be that kids would learn about conflict resolution, collaboration, and healthy competition. By learning and playing a sport together under the leadership of a coach, children would have the opportunity to experience these challenges, and in the process not only learn about themselves, but about their peers as well. I have seen how sports can positively impact and change the course of a young person’s life. My goal is to make this available to every child who desires it.”
I am excited to share that I was recently accepted into the program and will begin in January 2013! I am thrilled about having the opportunity to start something new and pursue another interest I feel strongly about. I recently was thinking about this upcoming new direction I’m taking and I realized there is a good possibility I may not teach again. I’m not going to say never – life is too unpredictable to make such a statement. I feel that teaching has defined me over the last 14 years and now…well, it’s going to change. I am hoping that I contributed to future generations in some small way during my teaching career and I hope I can continue to do so in my new pursuits. It’s weird to think about not having that identity anymore. Hope you all will stick with me as I start to build a new one.