Monday, November 26, 2007

On My Way

One summer night in Tahoe earlier this year, I laid on my bed in the darkness, while my house mates partied in the living room five feet away. Some nights I joined in, other nights I didn't. This night, for whatever reason, I felt like closing my door and shutting myself off from the rest of the world.

In between the bass blasts from Fergie's latest hit single, I thought about what I was doing, and what I wanted to do--for really the first time in my life. What I wanted to do, not what I thought others would like. Not what I thought would please my friends and family, girlfriend or crush. 25 years old, single, no strings in the world--what do I want to do?

I had thought about the question in bits and pieces, usually while driving long distances on the highway, but my mind always drifted away and the question would fade. I'm good with computers, I'm a quick learner, and I think 99 out of 100 work mates would give me a good recommendation. For some reason, I always saw myself working in the corporate world. An attractive wife would bear us a son and a daughter. I'd be head over heels in love with my wife in the beginning, then the fire would fade, but the love and friendship would remain until death. I'd be making more money than I needed, and I would be happiest attending my son or daughter's sporting events when they were still young. I would be knee-deep in work, and I wouldn't get much time to spend with my family. The time I did spend, would be spent with my kids, and my wife would most likely feel neglected.

But that night in Tahoe, I thought of a better path: Teaching.

My Dad and I have had dozens of hot-tub conversations over the years. The topics have ranged from high school girl crushes to investment strategies. When he's asked me what I want to do, my answer has changed over the years, but one thing that has stayed consistent is the only career I have ever been able to see myself in long-term is teaching. The chaos that comes with teaching, the amazing minds of students, and the learning environment for both myself and the students will keep my mind fresh for as long as I can envision.

I know the teaching experience won't be all mashed potatoes and gravy. I'll have students who are in terrible situations and want to kill themselves. If I stay with the middle school level (as I intend), I'll have to deal with raging tween hormones all day long, and I understand the last thing those hormones want to do is learn math.

Much like I'm writing right now, I've been able to envision myself as a teacher. Not just a teacher, but a great teacher. The kind of teacher the students might not like the first day of class--heck, maybe not even on the last day of class--but they would come back after graduation, give me a smile, shake my hand and say, "Thanks."

Writing and day-dreaming about becoming a teacher is all well and good, but it accomplishes nothing. Back in Tahoe, on that summer night, a huge smile consumed my face. I found the door. My life, as I saw it, was one long hallway, covered with doors on either side. Most doors were open a crack, some were wide open, and others were closed and boarded up. The doors represented my life paths. One of the closed doors, with a sturdy deadbolt lock read, "Doctor." A completely boarded up door had once read "Pilot" (I'm colorblind). A peak inside a wide open door would display a vision behind the counter at a McDonald's. I had opened one of the many different "Teacher" doors plenty of times, but I would never leave the door jam. I'd look in and think to myself how cool it would be... and then retreat back into the hall and browse the other doors much like staring at apples in a grocery store, hoping for a telepathic message from the ripest ones.

As the smile stretched across my face, lying alone in the darkness of my room, I couldn't help but let out a little laugh. Heh! I was happy, but it was also funny to me. It was silly. Teaching is really the only thing that I want to do. I knew this a long time ago, but I never pursued it, or wanted to put enough time in to make it work. Why? I was too busy enjoying my youth. I spent eight hours a day either watching TV, playing a video game, or playing sports from about age 10 to 24. I wouldn't change a thing.

But, I realized I'm not really a kid anymore. I love using my brain and helping others. I get to use my brain and help people in video games at times, and I enjoy it immensely. But really, besides the anonymous people skills, I was learning and accomplishing nothing playing games (although, I was enjoying myself). Teaching popped up again as something I would be proud of. I've always thought teachers have the most difficult and under-appreciated job in the world.

A lot of teachers have it rough, and there really isn't anyway around it. If you teach in a run-down inner-city school, you've got no funds to reach students who don't want to learn. You've got unattainable benchmarks to meet and life would be rough. If you teach out in the suburbs, you'll most likely have a band of rotten, spoiled brats, whose lives are already laid out by their parents--and both the student and the parents could care less what you are teaching. How could knowing the tangent of a 45 degree angle affect the kid's life who has a million dollar trust fund waiting for him on his 18th birthday?

As crazy as it sounds (and I know I'm being idealistic here), I want to be those teachers. I want to give the spoiled brat a different view of the world. A world outside of his gated community and Caribbean vacation spot. Show the kid that he has all the opportunity and resources to do anything he wants, and that he has done absolutely nothing to get that privilege. I want to be the white teacher who looks completely out of place standing in front of a class of 30 young black kids. But I wouldn't see them as 30 young black kids. I would see them as 30 creative bombs ready to explode. On the first day of class I would see what they themselves could not, and by the end of the semester they would smile and be shocked at their transformation. I would smile, but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised. They'd learn algebra without even realizing it, and they would teach me more than I could ever teach them.

I'm still smiling, laying on my bed, dreaming up these fantastical ideas of my life as a teacher, when a jolt of reality hits me. I've done it again. Dreaming about something just doesn't won't cut it this time. I need to get serious about it. For once in my life, I need to put myself out there--all of myself, and see what I am capable of.

After that night, within a week, I was observing classes at Kingsbury Middle School, in Zephyr Cove, Nevada. I had done research about what schools in Seattle had teaching certification programs. I called Marc's wife, who had gone through UW-Bothell. I talked to Stacey's brother's wife, Jess, about her schooling experience to be a primary school teacher.

I was on my way that first night in Tahoe, and the wheels have kept on turning. I've gotten over 60 hours of classroom observation in, all in public schools. I have two letters of recommendation, and I've obtained FAFSA and other scholarship info.

Today, I got my test results back from the West-B test I took on November 3rd.

I wasn't too worried about the test originally, but during the test I had a lot more trouble than I had anticipated. I aced the online practice test, but while taking the actual test, I narrowed down the reading and writing sections to two answers and had a very hard time figuring out which of the two would be the better answer. Two guys also wanting to be teachers in my Geography course at NSCC took the test the same weekend, and had the same gripe in class on Monday. It made me feel a bit better, but I also realized all three of us could fail. You need above 80% on each of the three sections to pass. If I didn't pass, I would have to wait until the Fall to begin my teaching program, which would delay my graduating date by a full year (different, longer program in the Fall than the Spring).

I got an email today labeled "Your WestB Unofficial Scores." I swallowed hard.

Reading: Passed
Mathematics: Passed
Writing: Passed

Reading: 277/300
Mathematics: 297/300
Writing: 278/300

The application deadline is January 4th, 2008. One more recommendation letter, two official transcripts, and I will really be on my way.



Blogger Schaubs said...

Congrats dude! Was there ever any doubt? seriously.

Well done.

12:37 PM  

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