I have heard a lot of teachers say they knew they wanted to be a teacher since childhood, but this does not describe me. Although I always loved kids, teaching was not a career I ever saw myself pursuing. When I was about 20 years old however, I decided to become a teacher as a way of continuing my love affair with sports (I really wanted to coach basketball),
My first teaching position was with a group of fourth-grade students in small town Saskatchewan, Canada. I was able to coach high school basketball and made some wonderful connections that first year, ones I still have today. What had surprised me the most was how much I loved being with my grade four students. Everyday was new to me. Even though there were some challenges, I always wanted to go back to work the next day. Life was good.
An Easy First Step
One of the things I loved most about the job was the feeling of “celebrity” that I had in the school. I was a young teacher who felt confident. I knew I was doing a good job by the way students from my grade four class loved to help me out as much as possible. I could visit any classroom or activity in my K-7 school, connect with the students and feel appreciated and respected. It was a good feeling.
The subjects I taught always became conversations with students. The one thing that people know about me is that I love to talk. The kids quickly caught on. I just loved expanding on world events and helping students make connections to our class work. To be honest, I do not really remember any of the units that I taught that year, but I do remember all of the kids. The positive feedback I received from students made my first teaching position an easy first step towards finding my passion as an educator.
Based on a personal decision, I took a position at another school. Now this position was in a high school “teaching” students using a module learning curriculum. At first I thought, “This is going to be so easy.” I was definitely right. However, after five years of transmitting a curriculum where students trudged their way through booklets, and checked off the requirements they needed to get A’s, I had enough.
I did not see purpose in my position. I lost my passion. I ultimately decided that if I did not get a new position, I was going to take a leave from teaching. Why? Because I wasn’t teaching students anymore. I was teaching curriculum. And to be blunt, it was boring—for the students, and for me.
Two weeks prior to filing for a leave of absence, I was offered a job at another school just outside the city of Edmonton. I decided to take the position thinking I would give teaching one more year with hopes a change of scenery would do me some good and help me rediscover my path to passion.
Back on the Path
A funny thing happened on the way to my new job…
I received an opportunity to interview for what seemed to be my dream job at the time. Problem, I already signed a contract for my new position leaving me with a dilemma: either just forgo the interview for my dream job all together or be honest with my new employer by letting her know I was interviewing for another position. I chose the latter. What happened next surprised me and possibly changed my life forever.
When I met with my new supervisor and informed her of my decision to interview for the dream job she said, “If that is what you really want to do, go for it. We will be able to find someone else. If you do not get the position, you are more than welcome to stay with us.” At that moment, I decided I was not interested in the dream job anymore because I had never before felt so respected by my “boss.”
Starting in my new school was a total eye opener. I was trusted to do what worked for ME and the ways I relate to the kids. My strengths were always valued and encouraged. My principal knew of my weaknesses, but never focused on them. She always encouraged my strengths. I always had multiple opportunities to connect with kids. I loved every moment with them, whether positive or negative. I felt my passion reignite. I also realized that I did not become a teacher because I loved teaching a specific subject, but because I loved connecting with kids. I took a few side-steps along the way to figuring out where my passion lies for sure. Now that I’ve I realized it, I never let it go.
Clearing the Path
I know my passion is connecting with kids. As an administrator, I lead my school community by providing occasions for others to find their own passions. Every year I ask the question, “In a perfect world, what would you like to teach at school?” I present our staff the opportunity to help me, help them find their passion (a little Jerry Maguire there folks). I encourage staff to do what works for THEM and know they will feel joy and share that with their students.
Kids know when a teacher is passionate about something. They feed off the teacher’s energy. It also models to students the true happiness that one finds from being able to pursue their passion. Students then feel invited to do the same. My ultimate goal is to clear the path by working diligently with my staff to find and share their passion. If I am successful, then I am sure they will do the same for their students.