When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher.
The dream started in elementary school. I wanted to be just like my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Capone. He was (and still is) one of the coolest teachers ever. He had a small basketball hoop attached to the blackboard, and on Fridays, we would get a chance to sink a basket. I thought that was so cool. A teacher who let us have a little fun in the classroom? Unheard of! I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.
When I got to high school, I was blessed with another great teacher, Mr. Nappi. He was (and still is) one of my favorite teachers. He made learning fun. Exciting. I loved going to English class every day, not knowing what he would do next. I have always been an avid reader and writer, but Mr. Nappi showed me that I could take my passion for both and turn it into a career. (He is now a kick-ass author of several best-selling novels. Check out his books here.)
After a couple of non-teaching related jobs, I went back to get my Masters in Secondary Education and graduated in December 2007. I subbed for a bit before landing a month long maternity leave replacement position at a great school on the north shore of Long Island. That position lead me to another leave replacement position at their middle school. I landed another position after that one ended. And another. This lasted for seven years in the same district taking over maternity leave positions. And after seven years bouncing from maternity leaves, to maternity leaves, and never seeing a secure teaching position available, I threw in the towel.
But what is important to note is that my first real class will be graduating this year. I taught them when they were in 6th grade. I taught them in 6th grade, 7th grade, 9th grade and 10th grade. I loved going to school every day, to see their smiling faces, even amongst the teenage angst. They were always saying hello in the hallways, hello in the parking lot, hello at the basketball games. They were excited when they heard I would be coming back the next year, or when I got engaged and especially when I got married. And they were especially sad when I told them it was my last year, and I would not be there for their junior or senior year. They knew it wasn’t my decision. They knew that with the recent economic changes, there wasn’t enough teaching positions to go around.
This was my childhood dream. To stand up in front of a classroom and teach the youth of America how to appreciate great literature and how to become a great writer.
Although I didn’t have a basketball hoop in my classroom, I felt I took the lessons I learned growing up, the lessons I learned from my various jobs and I incorporated them into my daily lessons. I was a better teacher for all these life choices. I grew as a person during this time and as I look back, I appreciate the fact that I had the opportunity to fulfill my childhood dream.
Below is a letter I received from one of my students on my last day. This letter is the reason I became a teacher. I will never forget all that I have learned from my students during that time.
(This post was originally published on 10.2.14 on my other blog, Breakfast with Bentley and featured on BlogHer.)