I remember when I first started substitute teaching at a small private school in East Sacramento six years ago. Watching all the emerging personalities, I could imagine futures. A balding accountant, a ferocious attorney, a sleek, high-paid consultant. Not only would I see their future professions, but I could see their adult personalities. Most were type A, focused, driven.
As a fresh-faced college graduate, they often complimented my Urban Outfitters apparel, then asked why on earth I would want to be a teacher. They could not possibly understand why I would settle for such low pay to work with children, even though they were children themselves. Clearly, their expectations were shaped by other measures than job satisfaction.
I can’t remember my exact response. Quite honestly, I probably still agreed with them to some degree. I never thought I’d be a teacher, let alone an elementary school teacher. I still thought I had to put my name in lights or make a fortune to be happy. Substitute teaching was my source of income while I lived at home, applied for jobs, auditioned for ridiculously doomed independent films. Travel show host, filmmaker, actress still topped my list. Lawyer had just been scratched on account of the brutal realization I did not want to sign the financial aid papers.
Of course, that was me then. Three years behind a desk making decent money but unhappy left me daydreaming about those same kids. Somewhere along the way, I realized teaching elementary school could be an incredibly rewarding and challenging profession. Which brings me to today, gluing my students’ colorful clouds with their hopes and dreams next to their pictures.
Now I am the leader of a much more eclectic bunch. Many of their dreams are big, creative, out of this world. Not only that, but many of them want to be teachers. Reading their hopes for the future this afternoon, I could not help but grow teary. In their words, I hear myself. So many future teachers and writers in my room. You know, in addition to other things, like famous dancers and video game makers…