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By Jill Greenwood

So here’s the real skinny. When I was in elementary school, I desperately wanted nothing more than to be a nun. I’ll let that sink in a little for you. A nun. As in a celibate, religious worker. And I wanted it bad, people. So bad that I joined the flippin’ Nuns Club at school. What does one do in the Nuns Club? Well, I’m not quite sure . . . but I was in it dammit! And when I watched my teacher read stories to us, I would fixate on her habit and later when I would glance away, I could still see her outline and was convinced that it was a sign from God calling me to be a nun. Seriously . . . I had issues with it.

Truly, I hadn’t quite figured out that what I wanted to be when I grew up was a teacher. Up until the third grade, the only teachers I had were nuns (big shout out to Srs. Marcia and Mary Louise!), and they had a huge impact on me, not because they were nuns but because they were teachers. The kind of teachers who took the time to help you learn phonics or how to correctly spell the big words. The kind of teachers who understood if you were having some down days because your sister was in the hospital because she was so tiny. The kind of teachers who had particular laughs that you remember to this day.

But I resisted being a teacher for the longest time. And I’m not sure why but resist it I did. Through two different majors. Some freelance technical writing. Babysitting other people’s kids. Doing book keeping on the third shift at Walmart. Working as a pharmacy technician. Anything but teach.

Something clicked around my 30th birthday. I’d taken a dip in the teaching pool by working as an aide* in an intermediate school. I loved working with the students. The people I worked with were amazingly talented professionals. Something, however, was lacking. I wasn’t at the front of the class. It wasn’t my lesson that I was helping a few kiddos get. And so to get to where I really wanted to be, I had to do the hardest thing in the world. I quit. Left a building that I loved and children that I enjoyed working with. Walked away . . . so that I could come back and be a teacher.

It took me about 18 months to get my certification. After that, I worked as a day-to-day sub for a few months (note to all you soon-to-be parents: do not name your child Okay . . . it will be confusing for him in school). For the last three quarters of a school year, I taught reading and English to sixth graders in a district 45 minutes south of me. But I was missing my home – the school where I finally realized what I wanted to be when I grew up. So when a friend called and said there was an opening in my old building, I leapt at the chance to go back. Seven years later . . . best choice ever.

Love What You Do

I love what I do, but it took me a long time to get busy doing what I love – 35 years precisely. Could I have figured it out before then? Probably. But I guarantee you that I wouldn’t be the teacher that I am today. I wouldn’t hear Laura’s voice when I quietly say, “I’ll wait,” to get the class’s attention. I wouldn’t even know who Eratosthenes is or why the hell he had a sieve if it weren’t for Cookie. I can’t teach prepositions without thinking of how Rick did it. So, to the teachers who taught me to read, I thank you. But to the teachers who taught me how to be a teacher, I love you all . . . and thank you.

What are you doing? Do you love it? Or do you need to get busy doing what you love? Take that first baby step . . . dip a toe into the water. Even if you are just trying to carve out some time to quilt or read or hoop or use the bathroom without having a kid attached or sit quietly . . . you have my permission. Or, considering I say this a lot, your homework for today, get busy . . . and tell me all about it.

*Instructional aides? Some of the hardest working people I know, and I love each and every one of the talented women with whom I’ve had the pleasure to teach. Don’t even get me started on secretaries . . . they are the glue that keep most buildings together.

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  1. lifeineden #
    April 27, 2012

    My son’s current 3rd grade teacher was the secretary in a district elementary for a decade before she went back to school to become a teacher. She is THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD!!! And I’m not the only one who thinks so. She is incredibly talented and gifted, and she gets and works with my son who has, well, some unique needs.

    As for me, I’m not sure what I should be busy doing. Sometimes I think I’d like to teach photography to older kids. Right now I have a family session to edit, and another to prep for this weekend. And a thousand other things to do too. So off I go!

    A for me

    • Jill #
      April 27, 2012

      Yes indeed . . . an A! Our school secretaries rock and deserve a whole lot more than one day in their honor. I can only begin to imagine what stories they can tell 🙂

  2. amandaart26 #
    April 27, 2012

    I’m not too late, after spending the last 7 years as nothing more than “Mom” or rather: “MoooooooooooooooooMMMMMM” lol it took a seperation, a walk through hell and the start of a divorce to find myself and my passion. I’ve always painted my nails, matching this and that…but now…I have found a true passion, i’ve never done well with big pictures, having to put the detail in here and there but finger nails are the perfect canvas for me, they are tiny and you can get away with deleting this or that detail with it still coming out absolutely amazing. And let’s be honest, putting a smile on some ones face by giving them something as simple as a tiny picture on their hands, feels wonderful, and lord knows that at this point in time…any warm fuzzy feeling inside is a great great thing 🙂

    • Jill #
      April 27, 2012

      Nothing more than Mom? Everything else pales in comparison, but I have to tell you, I’m in awe of anyone who can paint anything on nails! I can’t tell you how happy I am to walk out with a freshly done set and maybe a little flower or two. Completely brings a smile to my face for days.

  3. ventedconcrete #
    April 27, 2012

    Love this Post…. Its very inspirational in a fun way.. showing that were never to old to follow our dreams! 🙂

  4. Ana #
    April 27, 2012

    Inspiring! Yours is an important message….that it’s never too late to appreciate and celebrate your dreams, to insist on honoring your passion and person. The journey is all part of your individuality, your life story. I’m trying but to put one foot in front of the other as I decide which of my many interests are the real me.

    • Jill #
      April 27, 2012

      It took me so, so long to figure out what I wanted to be. And there are days where I smack my head and ask, “Was this it?” But I know it truly is the best gig. I enjoy everything that my kids have to offer even if they make my head spin every once and a while.

  5. April 27, 2012

    It is all about the road you take to get there that really makes you who you are! I completely agree! So happy you found your true passion and made it into a wonderful career! How fortunate for you and the children you educate.

    • Jill #
      April 27, 2012

      Considering we’re in the middle of a huge project, I don’t know if my students would agree with you 🙂 But they are awesome even if they don’t know it yet.

  6. April 27, 2012

    I’ve been a preschool teacher, and worked in that profession with the 5 year olds (pre-k) off and on for six years. I loved every minute of it. Recently, I’ve thought about applying at the special learning center, but I really want to teach grade school. To do that I have to go back….to school…lol. We’ll see how that pans out.

    • Jill #
      April 27, 2012

      Dude . . . my hat is completely off to you. Preschool would terrify me. Hell, the prospect of having to teach anything younger than 3rd grade makes me sweat a little. Seventh grade is my perfect level. They are odd little ducks at this age, but odd in ways that make you appreciate everything. Every question. Every giggle. Every note. Even on the bad days, there is something good . . . and go for it! Back to school!

  7. keeper #
    April 29, 2012

    I wanted to be an Opera singer when I was young. I listened to classical music and Operas all the time. I even attempted to learn Italian….I was a strange child

    • Jill #
      May 1, 2012

      That makes me laugh so much that I can’t even put it in perspective. An opera singer? I don’t think I’ve ever met someone with that career goal . . . but now I have 🙂

      • keeper #
        May 2, 2012

        yep. i was strange indeed. i sang in the church choir, and school choir. I wasnt a bad singer, but i didnt stand a chance, haha!

  8. boldbohemian #
    April 30, 2012

    Loved your story. The saying, “it is never too late,” always applies in life. Congratulations on finding your passion.

    • Jill #
      May 1, 2012

      Why thank you! It truly took forever to put all the pieces of the puzzle together . . . and I’m thinking that my students are probably not terribly happy I figured it out. We’re doing research right now, so they are not happy campers.

  9. April 30, 2012

    I read this post at a great time. I am struggling with the post-grad-working-an-entry-level-position job. It is nice to be reminded of the big picture, and how life takes you to places you never thought you would go.

    • Jill #
      May 1, 2012

      Transition times are the worst, but the big picture? That’s what it’s all about . . . screw the hokey-pokey!

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