Saturday, September 7, 2013

My Teacher Story


I fought the idea of being a teacher.  Why?  All things pointed to a teaching career.  I loved my magical kindergarten teacher; I pretended I was a teacher at an early age, I loved playing teacher in my mother’s classroom.    I knew how hard she worked; I felt the respect for teachers was not what it should be, I wanted more! However, like a magnet, teaching drew me in.  Freshman year of college, my mother, the summer school principal, hired me as a teacher.   Other summer school teachers thought I was a credentialed teacher; I realized this was within my skill set.   Then my college roommate decided to get a teaching credential.  I caved.  I changed my major and now after 8 years of teaching, I reflect on my teaching journey.   

The first couple of years I was consumed with being the perfect teacher; every waking hour was consumed by planning, prepping, perfecting every detail.  The teaching obsession was not healthy.  Fortunately, during those first couple of years, I had an amazing mentor, who supported me.  I cleared my credential with the help of the BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment) mentor program.  I also had teacher colleagues who shared their ideas with me.  But soon my teaching world started crumbling around me.  The double whammy in my district was the economy and also declining enrollment. So I moved from one school to another school and then eventually got laid off, even with five years of seniority, tenure and outstanding reviews.  This tragic realization came with wounds: lost teacher friends, hurt feelings, loss of innocence around school politics, the realization that everyone is expendable.  I had not taken care of myself, put on weight, gave up precious work out time.  I was depleted.  The stress of moving every year from school to school, from grade level to another grade lever had taken its toll on me.  I was depleted.   Then fortunately, a new realization took hold, the next district that hired me as a kindergarten teacher had many wonderful qualities, change was good and I learned many things about my self through the forced change.  In addition, I realized I rocked as a resilient person, who would not be afraid of change.  My students were always the joy of my life.    So when my boyfriend decided to take a job two hours away, I decided to interview at a job that would mean I could be near him.  And when I was hired, it meant I was starting over AGAIN, new district, no credibility with parents, no teacher friends and going from kindergarten to 5th grade!  On the other hand I was teaching the gifted students and only 18 students. The stress accelerated when my mother had surgery and then my father died.  I was running on fumes. But I survived. My students took my mind off of the family hardships.  I had an amazingly supportive group of teachers at my grade level that looked out for me and supported me through this hard time.  

Teaching is not glamorous. I am not here to sugar coat it or be fake with you.  I want to make more money, more respect.  Teaching pushes all of my buttons.  I am a control freak, perfectionist, and competitive person.  I hate that a bell dictates my schedule and when I need to go to the bathroom.  There have been many times that I question if this is the right profession for me and when can I get out!  The politics, test score chasing, and overall bureaucracy make the job overwhelming.  Because of layoffs and jumping around I know that I am jaded.   Having the opportunity to teach a grade level for more than one year may change my mind completely about teaching!  I admit I  feel everyone is watching, parents, students, administration, the community, the world, test scores!!!!!!! 

The pressure is intense.  Every step could be a land mine  So why do I keep doing it?  My classroom. My students.  My classroom is my home.  I love decorating it, I love creating new curriculum, I love seeing an idea I have come to life with my students,  I love laughing with them, I love looking out at my class and thinking I did it----- the systems, the routines, the enthusiasm I had a part in this. I think back to my kindergarten teacher often.  She made teaching magical for me.  I have a drive to make learning magical for my students.  

(A special sign I had made for my first year of teaching!)

(My first year teaching kinder!  My mom helps go through the large book collection.  What a treasure...what a job!)

(One of my many moves!)

Sorry for the poor poor poor quality of this photo.  Just a little photo fun old school style.  Rainforest Open House.    I assembled a large Kapok tree in the middle of my classroom.  My first Halloween was dressed up as Tacky the penguin.  Ahhhhh yes, my old red ford focus.  This little sporty car took me to and from work.  When I taught my first year of kinder my mom came to school as Zero The Hero's wife for the 100th day of school.  Lots of great memories!


  1. The photos are an even neater addition to your awesome "Draw My Life" video. I have even more respect for you now than I did before. It's amazing how different my story became after leaving California. I couldn't even get past the interview process, so I applaud you and all my other friends from my teaching program who were able to. The whole pink slip process is one that I still have a hard time even registering whenever my friends post how they got another one at the end of each year. It is appalling to find that it is still being done to such fantastic teachers who belong in the classroom. When people ask me about it and why I left the state I always tell them to imagine how hard it would hit them emotionally and mentally if you were asked to leave and pack up at the end of each year only to have to start all over again, despite being a teacher who makes a difference and gets results. They usually have an a ha moment after that explanation.

    I hope that you don't have to experience any of that in your new surroundings and are able to enjoy the process of staying in one place and getting to know the admin and staff the way you should be allowed! Your story has helped me see how much I am lucky to continue staying in one place and enjoying it.

    Thanks for sharing here and on your channel! I would love it if you linked up your blog post to my linky party. Then, others reading this could link up as well. I'd love to know so much more about the many teachers in this blogging's hard since I'm just starting out. :-)

  2. This is beautiful!!! I was getting fahrklempt right along with you! You are a treasure not only to your profession but to the world! (BTW, if this publishes as Anonymous, it's because I don't really know how to do this--but it's Pat, and I love you!)

  3. This is a beautiful presentation! I am so blessed to have worked with you for your last year at Foothill. I carry on many of your wonderful ideas to all the rooms I work in. You made that year one of my most favorites! Fondly, Debbie

  4. Hi She,

    I am sorry you have so many strong stinky memories. The pink slip and test scores frenzie does suck.

    I love that you are continuing to bring the magic to your classroom. I too remember loving kindergarten and feeling how magical it was.I try to make my first grade classroom my medical place as well. I love our jobs!


  5. I must say that this presentation was beautiful and you had me getting emotional right along with you AND I have never taught in a classroom ever. Matter of fact, I just started to teach my 10yr old 5th grade at home. Homeschooling is new to both her and I and we are learning together and getting through it together. I know that homeschooling is nothing like teaching in the classroom with many adorable faces, the struggles, the pink slips, the ups/downs but I will say this from one woman who loves children to another, DO NOT GIVE UP ever even when you feel like you have no fight left in you because hearing your words in your video, reading them in black and white, seeing your photos and not ever have meeting you or spoken to you ever, I can tell that you are exactly what these children need in their lifes. You are the stability and the safety net that many don't have at home that you give in those few hours each day. You truly are doing what your kindergarten teacher did... you are making magic happen and I know it by just listening to your video because you made me feel that magic through your love and passion that stems from deep down in your heart. It shows and the way that kindergarten teacher made a difference in your life and left such a huge impact on you, you are doing the same for some other little girl or boy. I guarantee that. Because you made me feel something in the 15 mins that I spent at your blog today... you made me feel inspired to be the best teacher to my daughter that I can be. To be her TEACHER and not her mommy during the day during those hours. You have inspired me to challenge myself and pull myself out of mommy mode to be a teacher that teaches her and helps her face her own challenges. So thank you for those 15 minutes of a wake up call and thank you for being YOU because there is something magical about you that you were able to touch a complete stranger in a way that your kindergarten teacher reached you. I hope you have an amazing school year this year. Hang in there!

    ♥ Jo's Scrap Shack ♥

  6. I have to admit that I'm discouraged these days: finding a job is not easy ans I wonder if I will be able to survive the stress of not knowing if I will work or not. I'm really passionate about teaching so I keep working towards my goal! A lot of people around me tell me how hard teaching is but I try to focus on positive people like you instead. Thank you!


Sheila Chako
Sprinkle Teaching Magic