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.
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.