It’s all about making a difference. Sometimes it’s hard to see the differences we make, but they are there and they are HUGE! My journey to being an educator was full of twists and turns. When I was a little girl, I used to play school a lot. I had little carpet squares as student desks, and my classroom was “equipped” with a chalkboard, markers, crayons, paper and a telephone. Whatever happened that day in real school, usually found its way into my “classroom” at home. If we had a good day at real school, my “students” had a good day at home; if it was bad, well…let’s just say it was pretty bad in my pretend world too! Reflecting back, that was the seed that was planted many years ago.
My first teachers, were of course, my parents. I can remember my mom reading to me and my dad teaching me how to play music. I learned how to treat others from watching the way they interacted with people. My sister, Elaine, was also one of my first teachers. She taught me religion. My parents bought her all sorts of books and workbooks on training me in our faith. I remember her taking me to the office to have our religion lessons. She created charts of the prayers I needed to learn, and they were full of stars. Each time I would correctly recite a prayer, I would get to put a little foil star on the chart. When that prayer had 10 stars, I could FINALLY put up a gold star!!! I mastered that task! Now, here’s the kicker….I WENT TO A PAROCHIAL SCHOOL!!!!! What’s really interesting to note…both Elaine and I are now educators!!! I think there must have been something written in the “stars”.
Then, there is Miss Shaffer. I could honestly swear that lady was 100 years old and she was MY fifth grade teacher. I had heard so many rumors about how mean she was, but they were all false. What I learned that year was that she was the perfect teacher for me. That year, my family suffered a huge tragedy. My older brother committed suicide. I could go on about the devastation we endured, but most importantly, I had a constant that year. Miss Shaffer. I remember beginning to recede into a shell. I didn’t understand what had happened and was scared that it was going to tear my parents apart. I sort of gave up on school. I didn’t care. I didn’t care if I produced quality work. I simply didn’t care. I don’t remember any ONE particular moment, other than she cared. She cared enough to NOT let me slip. She was patient, but she did not allow me to wallow in my self-pity. She made me redo alot of work, until it was up to her standards. I was frustrated but I did get tired of redoing everything, so I shaped up. My handwriting improved, my academics improved, and my whole outlook on everything improved. I knew that even though things would still be rough at times, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t conquer.
So flash forward to high school and college. I decided on Elementary Education. I spent two and a half years studying to be a teacher, only to wake up one day and decide that my future was really in fashion merchandising, so I changed. Shortly after the degree change, I decided to get married and start a family. 5 years later, I had three amazing kids and I realized that I was a born educator. I utilized everything I initially learned in my teaching courses and applied them to being a parent. When my baby girl was just 9 months old, I knew it was time to jump back in an finish what I started…learning to be a teacher. It took many years, but I finally earned my degree in education and jumped in to my vocation feet first!
I’ve been teaching 10 years now, and I can honestly say I have had my share of ups and downs. Sometimes I want to throw in the towel, but I always come back to doing what I love…making a difference in someone’s life. What I have learned through this journey is being an educator and being a learner go hand-in-hand. I am not the authority on everything and so many times I find that I learn from my students. I remember one time we were focusing on reading fluency. Why it’s important to make your “reading sound like talking”. How your pitch changes while you read, you stop and read the punctuation marks, and you bring emotion into your voice. If you’re angry, your voice sounds angry. If you’re excited, your voice sounds excited. One of my sweet girls raised her hand and looked me straight in the eyes and said, “so, you’re telling me that reading a book should sound like music?” Holy cow! This is from the mind of a third grader!!!! What a beautiful analogy that I had NEVER even thought of! And guess who will be using that as a connection for future students? You see, that day, she made a difference in my life.
Being an educator is more than standing up in front of a room and barking facts. It’s a beautiful dance, an interaction, that impacts each other. When times get tough, and I know they do, please remember that YOU make a difference. You may not see the difference, or will ever know about it, but you do. You make a difference in your students and anyone’s life that you come in contact with. Through all of the stress, tears and frustrations, I know I’m in the right place.