Have you ever wondered why anyone would want to become a teacher? That was always my question. I could not visualize anyone wanting to spend countless and thankless hours teaching children. Then it happened, I was offered a job as an ESL tutor while living in Virginia. It was remarkable pay and only a few hours a week, so of course I took the position. How hard could it be? All I had to do was go in for a few hours, work with a couple of children and my job was over. I had no responsibilities beyond those few hours with them.
I started out working one-on-one with children that were having difficulties in reading and writing. We were in a highly populated military area and most of the students that were ESL candidates were U.S. citizens, but they were born outside of the U.S. because of their parents’ deployment. Working with that first student is when it changed for me.
The first young man I worked with was born in Africa, so he had a heavy accent. He was in the second grade, but barely reading on a first grade level. By the time the year ended, we were reading chapter books together and he was reading on grade level.
The next year when I received my new group of students, I was disappointed. I had his younger brother, but not him. I was devastated! I had invested so much time in him and we were making astounding accomplishments (remember you have no responsibilities past those few hours with them….yeah right?) I voiced my concern about not having him, and one of the reading specialists reminded me that if I did not have him, then I was being successful. He did not need me anymore? That hurt. Those words of wisdom changed my outlook on teaching.
My family and I moved to Olive Branch, MS and I was offered a job at my children’s school after doing some volunteer work for them. I was in a similar role working with students that needed remediation in math and reading. After working in that capacity for two years, I realized I truly enjoy working with students, especially students that need more individualized attention.
I decided to continue my education and become a SPED teacher. It seems odd to be starting my first year as a teacher at my age. Most first year teachers are just graduating college and I graduated years ago, many years ago! I feel fortunate to have started my career at the number one middle school in Mississippi (2 years in a row….woot woot). I have extraordinary teachers and administrators as mentors and co-workers. After watching the interactions between different teachers and students, I have concluded that teachers that are knowledgeable in their subject area seem to be more successful. My goal as a new teacher is to provide a safe and challenging atmosphere. I will strive to remember that we may be the only stable part of some of these students’ lives. I will get to know them and their personalities so I can be encouraging and compassionate to their needs. I will be a positive influence in their lives because sometimes teachers are the only one!
Mrs. Lewis – 6th Grade SPED