Friday, August 23, 2013

Time in The Classroom ~ Becoming a Teacher

Missing the classroom begins when the shelves are stocked with new school supplies.

The beginning of any new school year always causes me to be a bit nostalgic.
I found myself in the school supply aisle at the store the other day.
Who can resist looking at those new notebooks,
and pens,
and pencils?
I know I can't.
I love this time of the year when the shelves are stocked with all those new school supplies.
This year,
I didn't buy a new notebook.
I didn't even buy a new pen.  
I don't need a new pen since I bought my favorite pen of all time:
the wonderful Bee Blossom Seven Year Pen.
(I do love this pen.  It is the best pen I've ever had. It might not last seven years, but writing with it is pure joy.)  
Ok, maybe that last statement is a bit over the top, but some of us really love our pens and pencils.

Missing the Classroom

Maybe, just maybe, it was my love of pens and pencils, and of books that set my destiny in motion.
As far back as I can remember, I wanted to teach.
I decided I wanted to become a teacher in kindergarten.
I loved school.
I loved my teacher.
I loved the classroom.

No wonder, I get a bit of a lost feeling when the school year starts without me.

My journey to becoming a teacher was a long one.  It took me longer than I ever expected to actually become a teacher.  In high school, I'm not sure I had my pathway mapped out for the future the way I wish I would have.  I knew for sure that I wanted to teach.  I also knew that would mean I would need to go to college.  No one in my immediate family had ever graduated from college when I was in high school.  My father had attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs, but he had dropped out just short of finishing his degree.  I think he only needed about seven credit hours to finish.  Somehow, the financial concerns during the Depression Era, and marriage, must have gotten in the way, and he never finished. 

My father was a man who championed education and placed great value on reading and writing.  He was always reading.  He wrote well.  He was a wonderful story-teller.  He encouraged great discussions at the dinner table, and he encouraged us to read and to think.  He also was realistic when it came to helping me select the courses I should take in high school.  He thought I was foolish to take Latin instead of Spanish.  I think we was pretty much right on that.  Latin always helped me with my understanding of vocabulary and grammar, but I should have also taken Spanish.  I regret that I did not.  He also insisted that I take typing.  He said that I would need that skill to get a job.  He was right on that advice.  He thought it was fine to take college prep English, but he also knew that I really needed help in the mathematics department.  He tried to help me all he could as I suffered through high school algebra.

When I graduated from high school, I was offered scholastic scholarships to two different state colleges.  I insisted that I wanted to attend what was then called Colorado State College in Greeley, Colorado.  It was the "teacher's college."  And so, on a September day fifty years ago, I went off to college on the first leg of a journey that would take more years than I ever imagined to becoming a teacher.  (This photo of me, decked out in my new going off to college outfit,  was taken one late summer afternoon all those many years ago by my high school boy friend.  Yes, he is now my husband.  And yes, I did wear this outfit, right down to shoes and the purse, on my first day as a college co-ed.)

Off to College
My head is full of many happy memories of my college days.  I lived in a college dorm, worked in the college dining hall, joined a sorority, Sigma Kappa, and met many wonderful friends.  One of those friends is still one of my dearest friends.  I am so grateful I had these opportunities and experiences.  Unfortunately, after the first semester of my junior year, I left college.  

I thought I would get back to school to finish my degree, but before long, I met a young man at work.  Six months later, I married this young man.  He and I spent nearly sixteen years together as husband and wife before we divorced.  During those years when we were married, he would finish his college degree, earn a masters degree, and earn a living as a high school teacher.  We also have five children together.  Those years, short on money and time, I spent my days taking care of my children and home. Going back to school to finish what I had started years before was only a dream that I knew would have to wait until later.  

After my divorce, I found my self in the unenviable position of being a single mom without a job or a college education.  During this time, in the Summer of 1981, I went to a conference where I was inspired to follow my dream to get that long desired college diploma.  That night when I returned home, I wrote the following words in my journal:
August 6, 1981
"The time frame in which we attain our goals may be altered but never lessens our inner need to fulfill them."  These words were spoken tonight at the conference for women by Dr. Lindquist at Weber State College.  My deep inner needs include a need to write seriously, to finish college, and to teach.  With the Lord's help, I do hope to fulfill these goals in the timeframe in which I have to work.

In reality, meeting such goals right after my divorce seemed like a dream that would never happen.  I had no money.  I didn't have a job.  I hadn't worked in years.  I didn't have any marketable job skills, except, I could type.  (Thanks to my father's instance, I could do that.)  

In time, I found a job as a secretary for a school district in Colorado Springs where I had relocated from Utah.  My salary was low.  I was a single mom.  I need to work.  I could not take off the time to go to college.  Even if I did finish my college coursework to teach, I could not take the time off to do observations of classrooms and student teaching.  

So, I went a different route.  After a few years, I went back to college at night to work on a BS degree in Business Administration.  Finally, in 1987, twenty-five years after I had begun work on my first year in college, I earned that long sought for college degree.  

Earning a BS in Business Administration
I was very proud of what I had accomplished in that moment, but I still didn't have a teaching certificate.  I had not let go of that dream yet, but again,  it seemed rather bleak that I would ever actually turn this dream into reality. 

Fast forward to 1992.  I married my high school sweetheart during that year.  I also began working as an accounting assistant doing bookkeeping for the school district in Pueblo.  About a year later, the carpel tunnel syndrome  and cubital tunnel syndrome problems I had ignored for years finally caused me seek treatment.  My surgeon said I could not work during the time I was recuperating from surgery, and in fact, told me to expect to be on workman's comp for at least a year and a half.  He also told me he would never release me to go back to doing the kind of work I had been doing for the past ten years.  In the meantime, I lost my job and my benefits.

Looking back, this turn of events was a God send.  My doctor would not release me from going back to work, but he didn't say I couldn't go to school.  So, in January of 1994, just a few weeks after surgery to release my trapped ulnar nerve from the cubital tunnel on my right arm, I began college again.  Julie, my youngest daughter was a college freshman at the same University.  She proudly wrote my name in my books for me since I could not yet write with my right hand.  Equipped with a tape recorder, I began the coursework that would lead me towards my long sought goals. 

A year and a half later, after taking all those English courses that I loved, and after a wonderful trip to England to study Theater in London, and after student teaching on my 50th birthday, I finally graduated summa cum laude with a BA in English and a secondary teaching certificate in English/Language Arts. I thought I was pretty old, to be entering the teaching profession, but as I look at a photo from that time, I marvel at how young I was!
Sally & one of her favorite professors
Dr. M. Barber
Oxford, England
I guess the rest is history.  I did land a teaching job after graduation.  I began my teaching career by teaching seventh grade English in the toughest middle school in the school district.  I was told not to smile before Thanksgiving because the kids would eat me alive if I did.  I don't know when I smiled; all I know is that I never cried.  That year deserves a book.  I will tell you about it in another post.  Just know, that I was hooked on teaching, even though my first year was worse than rough.  

I don't know that I have ever gotten the bug to teach out of my system even though I retired from teaching at the University level seven years ago.  I miss those times in the classroom.

To Be Continued...