I didn't begin my education degree with the goal of becoming a teacher. I wanted to know why people learned and why they didn't, how they were motivated and why certain things "stuck" when others were forgotten. I wanted to figure out the mind. Unlike so many of my classmates, I found theory exciting and wasn't particularly interested in the practical details.
At the time, I was working for a faith-based, urban non-profit. I met with a small group of students, organized a team of mentors and wrote a holistic curriculum. I knew, on some level, that I was a teacher and a learner. I just didn't particularly enjoy school. It had felt too constricting to that goofy artist-writer-dreamer in me.
As I continued to run the mentoring program, I noticed a trend. Although mentors were powerful in kids' lives, so were teachers. In many cases, kids spent more hours in their classrooms than they did in their homes. I saw that the institution of school that had felt so constricting to me as a kid often felt like a refuge to the kids I was working with.
Schools were a place of hope and teachers were making a difference. It didn't fit the education reform narrative that I often heard about lazy urban teachers and the "union thugs" advocating for low standards.
Still, I held back, because I knew that I would feel out of place in the system of school. (I still am.) Throughout my first three semesters of internships, I told people that I wasn't interested in being a teacher.
A week into student teaching, I fell in love with this job. I saw the power of students to think deeply about life. I realized that I could help guide them in critical thinking and creativity. I realized that teaching could be deeply relational and I was humbled by the reality that I could be a part of that process.
Even then, it took me awhile to warm up to the idea. I knew that I was an introvert and I would have to carve out one-on-one conferences and small group time in order to avoid burnout. I knew, too, that I would never agree with the standardized system of testing. I would never be able to see a child as a data point.
However, I also knew that there wasn't anything more I wanted to be than a teacher. I knew that I could do something that mattered.
I know that some people dream of being teachers from a young age. Others have a deeply emotional experience. But for me, it was much more gradual. It wasn't a "calling" in the way I hear other teachers describe it. It was a decision; a hard decision, but a decision that I have not regretted.