The other day, I was flipping through my old high school yearbook. There I stood in the back row of the photo of Future Teachers of America. Even then, I knew that teaching was something I wanted to do. In fact, as early as elementary school, I was making notes about which teachers I wanted to emulate and those who provided awful examples of how not to treat students and/or bore them to death.
When I completed my MFA in Writing and wanted to return to combining my novel writing with part-time teaching, I presented my CV to the Writing Coordinator at a local university. She hired me, but not before commenting, “Wow, I’ve never seen a CV quite like this!”
I suppose on the surface, I have had a pretty crazy, mixed up career. I’ve been a professional dancer, college teacher, performing arts high school faculty member, arts school administrator, counselor, free-lance magazine writer, novelist, and even a sexuality educator. Regardless of what I was officially doing at any time, however, teaching and mentoring have always been a part of my life. All these decades later, I remain passionate about teaching. Working with students nourishes and energizes me. Watching them grow and take ownership of their own learning never gets old.
Perhaps because I’ve mainly taught dance and writing, and sharing creative work can be such a community-building experience, I am also nurtured by the connections I’ve witnessed and experienced in the classroom. The students in my English composition class recently completed their first drafts of memoirs. Although most are fresh out of high school, their struggles and experiences remind me of how tough growing up can be, and how important it is to support one another. Some of my students have watched loved ones gunned down before they’ve even had a chance to grow up; others have lost parents to drug addiction.
Their stories are sobering, yet their resilience and hopes for the future are inspiring. I am so thankful that I get to be a part of their journey.
I’ll always be a teacher at heart.