I wanted to teach because I thought I could do a better job of it than the teachers I had in high school. That’s just the short answer. But my teaching experience didn’t quite work out that way.
What I think I meant by that was that I had an exquisite college experience with English. I had a professor who blew my mind every other sentence and opened up a world of books to me that I wish I had had in tenth grade.
What I didn’t realize was that tenth grade wasn’t the right time for mind-blowing book discussions. It’s a time for learning the basics, passing tests, and learning how to speak in public.
What I really wanted was to bring the kind of enlightened and energetic experience I had in college to students earlier — in ninth grade, in twelfth, whenever I could get my hands on them.
The reality of that is that I found myself in a rural school environment with students who didn’t want to know about their native (or in some cases, their second) language. They hated the nuances that I loved, they mocked and complained, and were often vocal about their contempt.
For me, it became clear that I was drawn to teaching for the wrong reasons. While there were a handful of students each year that were a pleasure to talk to and watch grow up, the majority resented my efforts, or just plain didn’t care.
What’s worse is that every one of those students who expressed their hatred had more going on in their life than just not liking English. They were suffering — mentally, physically, or otherwise– and their behavior in my class was just an unfortunate by-product.
It’s such a sticky subject! For every student that was resentful and aggressive towards me, there was another struggling with awful, terrible things a child should never deal with. Rape, parental neglect, hunger, basic cleanliness. It still breaks my heart. But while teachers are responsible individuals in a position to be of great assistance, it is a disservice to to place that burden on them.
Eventually, the abuse took its toll on me. And while at first I considered that to be a personal failing (which was traumatic enough) I now realize I just wasn’t cut out to teach. Some people are. Some people aren’t. And that’s okay! What matters is what you do once you find out…