Why I became a teacher
|Teaching - it’s not too far-fetched to say it’s in my blood. My great-grandfather was the Dean of Education in Alva. My grandmother on my dad’s side taught into her 70’s. My mom was a teacher; my brother teaches and coaches. I could go on and on: cousins, aunts, nieces.
Growing up a teacher’s kid, you see the rewarding aspects as well as the ‘challenging’ elements. When I was ten, there was a writing contest for Mother’s Day. I loved to write, was competitive, and my mom was (and is) one of my heroes; therefore, the contest appealed to me. I started it with: “My mom has 43 kids. Three are her biological children; forty are her kindergarten students.” Reflecting back, it amazes me that even then I understood that teachers are invested in far more than educational content. My mother modeled this. Day in and day out, we were one of the first at school and one of the last to leave. I saw her freely give love and acceptance to each five-year-old. It didn’t matter if their jeans had holes in the knees, they knew how to write their name, or she knew their families; they were her kids during those nine months.
I won the writing contest. My mom received flowers, and I learned there are such things as happy tears. But even then I didn’t know for sure that I wanted to be a teacher.
At the age of thirteen, I began teaching baton twirling at our local studio in Crescent. It may seem young, but when you’ve done something for ten of those thirteen years and pretended to teach a majority of that time, it seems natural. I loved it! By high school, I was teaching almost a hundred students which is quite a few for a small town. Many won at both the state and national level. I also tutored younger students. You would think when people asked what I wanted to major in, the answer would naturally be ‘education’. However, that wasn’t the case.
I’m not sure when it started, but my mom would often tell me, “You don’t have to be a teacher.” I know it wasn’t because she had lost her passion for education; but more likely, she didn’t want me to limit my options just because it was what I knew. However, at the time I think I saw it more as a challenge to do something different. That is why when people inquired about my future goals, I proudly responded that I was going to major in Psychology.
I paid for college teaching dance and twirling. I received my B.A. in Psychology and continued to teach dance and twirling. At a glance, it might appear that I was stuck in a rut, but I wasn’t. I loved kids. I loved teaching. I loved seeing kids progress and crave more challenges. Plus, when you work with kids, or probably people in general, you do use psychology to a degree, so I was convinced I hadn’t wasted money. At least, that’s what I told myself.
One of my favorite things ever was visiting my grandmother and talking about her life. It was a spring afternoon when I asked her if she had any regrets. This rather feisty woman turned the tables and asked me if I did. I thought for a few minutes, because you don’t lie to your Mema! Looking down at my hands, I admitted that I wished I had become a teacher. When you say dreams out loud, they gain potential; and it is up to you what you do with that potential.
I glanced up to meet Mema’s eyes. She replied, “So, do it.” I rebuffed explaining there was no way I could go back to school, raise a son, and work full-time at the age of thirty-three.
With that twinkle of stubbornness and love in her eye, she responded. “Oh, thirty-three is the age we stop going for our dreams? Wow, I wish someone would have told me that about fifty-two years ago. Life would’ve been so much easier. . . and unfulfilling. Audra Lea, you have never turned your back on a challenge when you knew what you wanted.”
I went back to school and got my teaching certification. I am so thankful that I did! I had help from all those teachers in my family and Mema, who never desired to teach even though she did in endless ways.