Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I'm a teacher~

I'm a teacher.

This is how I answer the "What do you do?" question.

I chose this profession when I was in first grade-- in truth because I wanted to hold the soft, white chalk, and make those magical marks on the blackboard-- they really were black in those days.

I was fascinated with the tools of the trade: the elastics worn around the wrist, the pitch pipe that hit middle C before we sang My Country 'Tis of Thee, the playground whistle, the contraption that held five pieces of chalk and drew five parallel lines all at once. The stickers. The red pens. The bulky teacher manual teachers referred to while teaching.

Teachers had a vague sense of power. Never abused, but definitive. I wanted to please them, but I also wanted that strength of presence. I wanted to sit in their basement room and listen to what they said about us while we played at recess.

Except for a brief stage in fourth grade when I wanted to be a veterinarian, I never wavered from my goal. I commuted to the state teachers' college 18 miles away.

With my new teaching certificate, I got a job in my hometown, the same system that schooled me.

Thirty-four years later, I'm still there, although I've changed grade levels, subjects, and buildings many times. The light at the end of the corridor--retirement-- glows brighter.

As much as I've loved, still love, the profession I chose fifty years ago, I've had spells of wishing I'd challenged myself more. I'd make one heck of a lawyer-- ask my husband. I could have been a vet. I could have been most anything that didn't involve algebra.

But I became a teacher.

Today, the fifth day of the new school year was frustrating. I forget how "entry level" these new middle schoolers are, how unorganized, how needy, how young. I forget that they never have a pencil, that they forget their folders and their books, that they don't listen and then they ask me the very questions I've answered moments before.

Today as I get ready to leave school, two young ladies are waiting in the hall.

"Mrs. Douillette! Remember me?" says one. She hugs me. I do remember her. She was in my fifth grade math class. She's a junior in high school now. A beautiful girl with careful make up and jangling car keys.

She tells me what she's up to these days. We talk about the "good old days." She tells me she'd been looking for me, but had gone to my old classroom, the one she remembered.

"I wanted to see you. You are my favorite teacher," she said.

I became a teacher many years ago. I could have been most anything. But I am a teacher; I have no regrets.


rain said...

I've always wanted to be a teacher-creating lesson plans, decorating my classroom, meeting with parents - oh yeah, then there's those pesky children, not part of my dream! Perhaps it's best that I became a social worker.

Janice Thomson said...

What a beautiful honest post Ruth. It makes it all worth while when a young girl remembers you as her 'favorite teacher' and knowing that something in your lessons will be remembered in her future. Kudos for choosing a profession where you can make a difference where it counts.

Alice Folkart said...

Ruth, the whole country should praise teachers like you, men and women who enter the profession because it calls them and who stay in it not only because they love it, but because they find that they can make a difference. Teachers should be paid more than lawyers, listened to more than doctors, appreciated more than chefs, and definitely honored more than politicians - that they aren't is a black mark on our society.

Thank you for doing what you do.

Loved the line that you could have been good at anything that didn't involve algebra - I knew that we had something important in common.

Ruth D~ said...

Rain~ Social workers don't get to the interior decorating part that teachers do, but what a job you folks do. And you must see some sad situations involving kids.

Janice~ The profession has changed its face since I started. But beneath the surface, it's always been about the kids. That's all that counts.

Alice~ The applause feels good, I have to say. There is not much being sent to the public schools these days. The government expects "results" forgetting that we are working with humans, and such results may take more time or different approaches than we are able to provide in 12 years.

Barbara said...

I too often felt that I never lived up to my full potential because I didn't go on to grad school. But I was happy in my job with no regrets.

I think many of us could have done any number of things we set our minds to do. At least in your profession, you still have living proof that you made a difference in people's lives!

And just think how well it prepared you to entertain your grandchildren some day!

Ruth D~ said...

Barbara~ I guess I'm realizing that most everyone probably thinks he could have done more. But it ain't over 'til it's over, right? And we all make a difference in people's lives, maybe in ways we'll never know.

leslie said...

I can SO relate to you. I, too, decided in grade 1 that I would be a teacher when I grew up. And I never wavered. Of course, back then a girl could be a teacher, a nurse or a secretary if she didn't up and get married right away.

Now it's gratifying when I run into former students and they remember me and are happy to see me. I had some come back to the school specifically to visit and that made me so happy! Now, I'm on Facebook and a lot of former students have asked me to be a "friend." Wow! Now that's something!

Best of luck this year - I love that age group (I taught 4th graders AND all the French in the school) and do miss it - uh, sometimes. :D

Voyager said...

Ruth, my hat goes off to you. I so admire teachers. I know I could never do it. Lawyering, that's a breeze compared to what you do. Especially middle school. You ARE making a difference, and the girl that came to see you shows you are one of the best.

Ruth D~ said...

Leslie~ Once ateacher, it never leaves your blood. You still teach. Look at the blogposts you write about animals. I just set up a spot on Facebook and I said, "Now what do I do with it?" I'd ask you to be a friend too, if I could figure out how. :>)

Voyager~ I'm glad you doubled up the comment. the other is in the mysterious land of cyber space, I guess. Lawyers would have their arguments with you, but, after a week in the classroom, they'd have to face the evidence.

sc morgan said...

Aah, Ruth. THIS is the essay on being a teacher, and it so much better than the one I saw earlier. I just knew you would find the right tone with this, and you did.

I particularly liked the impatience you describe with the entry level students--how many times you've seen it, how new it is for them. (God help the patients on the last day of an ER nurse's career.) We all feel that way from time to time; that is what was so human about the piece. Not gushy or maudlin, just truthful. The girls outside your classroom as a reminder are such a nice touch.

Brava for writing this and for your many years in teaching.

Ruth D~ said...

Sarah~ Thanks! It's easier to write a blog from the heart than to write an essay from my mind. Share some of the nursing stories sometimes. Now that's a profession that takes heart and soul. Where would doctors, and patients, be without you?