How I Got Here…

The following is the first of a two part entry that reflects on…well…everything I’ve experienced in this field, up to this point.

After all, you can’t understand where you’re at, if you don’t know where you’re from.

If you ask me what I wanted to be growing up, I honestly couldn’t tell you now.

Most children of 6 or 7 are still immersed in possibilities – ask them that same question, and you’re likely to hear astronaut or doctor without any hesitation.

Me? I can’t remember. It’s like that for most of my childhood, really – if you wrote chronicled my formative years, they would have probably been titled A Series of Unremarkable Events.

But I do remember this – that I was always with a book, always with something to read in those hands of mine. The spellbinding wizardry of Harry Potter, the spinetingling horrors of Goosebumps…before I ever knew what a Nintendo was, literature gave me all the entertainment I needed.

Somewhere along the line, that all changed.

Maybe it was in middle school, when our book reports asked for setting and plot, instead of motive and meaning. Maybe it was sophomore year, when I was the only one who really participated and spoke up in a room full of apathetic students. Or maybe I just discovered video games…and worse, found out about the internet.

Whatever it was, reading lost its magic to me.

My childhood love no longer inspired any passion, no longer commanded my attention, and I gave serious thought to pursuing some biology-related field of study in college. Or at the very least, anything BUT literature. After all, I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to continue with socratic seminars mired in awkward silence, or answering loaded essay questions.

Most humanities majors probably had that ONE teacher – that educational figure who changed everything, and opened their eyes to what they really were meant to do.

I found mine right at the end of high school, just before I was preparing for college.

Miss Barrett came along at the exact point in my life when I needed guidance and craved direction…and she gave it to me – in the form of perspective, challenge, and inspiration, every single day. As the years have gone on, I can’t really remember what I learned from her – only the feeling that I loved learning, reading and writing all over again. [I’ll probably dedicate another post to her at some point – the most profoundly influential educational figure in my life deserves more than just a paragraph.]

It wasn’t easy for me, especially having coasted through English classes throughout high school; and I spent many, many nights wrestling with some of the things she assigned us. I’m still not sure I’ve even understood all of them, years later. [One of these days, I need to look back through the work she gave us. I keep it all in two two inch binders in my house still.]

What would’ve happened to me if I had been stuck in another class, been under another teacher? I’d probably be somewhere – and someone – else entirely. When I say my life seems extremely fortunate, I always point to little things like this.

One moment that year stands out for me beyond any other – there was a day when Miss Barrett had us split up into groups to do peer editing. Normal enough, and standard English teacher fare…but as I began looking at my friend’s paper that day, something inside of me clicked.

It wasn’t the first time I had peer edited. It wasn’t the first time I had gotten excited about literature, either – anyone who saw me in high school can attest to that…but that was the first time that the two collided. Thoughts and connections just came pouring out of me when I saw his paper – phrases that he could tighten up, thoughts he should have made, points he needed to consider.

Before I knew it, the bell for lunch had rung.

We had spent 40 minutes working just on his draft. My paper was left untouched.

But that was when I knew. There wasn’t another job for me on Earth that I could ever enjoy more than teaching. Luckily, in the 4, almost 5 years since then, nothing has ever made me regret that conclusion.

Good job, 16 year old me.

For all the frustration and struggle I may have with writing, that one moment of inspiration and epiphany,  no matter how fleeting or temporary it may be, has always kept me coming back for more…so maybe it was no surprise that I grew to love helping other people feel the same.

There is one other reason why I decided to become a teacher, of course. No, it’s not for the travel time, or the admittedly mediocre pay. When challenged and motivated, I’ve always loved learning, and teaching – in its ideal form – is an occupation that’ll let me do that for the rest of my life. After all, the best teachers are always growing – not only from their own self-reflection and desire for improvement, but from the perspectives and viewpoints that their students bring to the classroom, too.

A job that guarantees new experiences every day, gives me the opportunity to change lives, and challenges me to grow as a person? How could I ever do anything else?

In my next entry, I’ll reflect a little on some of my tutoring work and history, particularly over the last year. It’s all very necessary context!

Stay tuned, and stay Golden, anybody who decided to read this.

-N

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