Being Chosen

On the first day of the college class I teach, an 18-year old freshman said, “Hey Katie, can I ask you something? It’s something I have asked every teacher since my freshman year of high school. Why are you a teacher? What made you decide?”

I get asked this question a lot.

How did I choose teaching?

I always answer with the cheesy cliche, “I didn’t choose teaching; it chose me,” because it’s really true in my case. I mean, I remember when I decided that I would follow the calling, but the itch to teach has been with me since my earliest memories.

Even though I don’t remember, I am pretty sure I’ve been a teacher since I became a big sister at the ripe age of 2.5 years old. I do know that I’ve been in love with school since I first started preschool at age four.

My little brother and I played pretend a lot: we played post office, church, house, store, and restaurant, but my favorite was playing school.  I think it’s because I got to be in charge.  Ok, I was in charge no matter what we played, but it was most apparent that I was the boss when we played school.

I vividly remember setting up our easel that had a blue chalkboard on one side and had a plain white side for clipping paper to for painting or drawing on the back. My brother–the victim of my teaching–sat where I told him to and did what I told him to. When he was barely four years old I taught him to read…or else I would punch him. My mom still tells this story with a chuckle. She called it the “Learn it, or Die” method.

Years later, I used the same method with our baby brother when he was four.

Some time in middle school my love of all the things school waned. I still loved school, but I was starting to realize I wasn’t brilliant at everything. There were some subjects (math..ahem) that were tough and I really didn’t enjoy thinking hard about how to do some of the skills (fractions…ahem).

In high school I realized I was completely uninterested in memorizing ions, writing proofs, figuring out velocity, learning the correct form for sinking a free throw, and many other things. School also started really early in the morning.  And there were people there that annoyed me…and they usually ended up in my group when we had to do a project.

Also in high school I had to start thinking about what I wanted to be when I “grew up” (heh. has this even happened yet?).

Junior year people started looking at colleges based on what they wanted to be. Part of me didn’t want to go to a college that everyone else was going to (that was so not me), but the thought of leaving home and being ALONE was terrifying. Plus I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

So I ignored it.

By senior year I was applying to all the local colleges and universities as well as a couple Big Ten universities because everyone else was. I knew I wanted to stay in state, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. I entertained the idea of studying law based on my love of arguing.  Typing that now makes me giggle knowing how NOT lawyerish I am. Back then I had no idea about laws and politics. I clearly had no idea what I was thinking. To be honest, I don’t think I was very seriously thinking at all.

Senior year kept trucking on and I had been accepted to every place I had applied, but I had to pick.

My parents wanted me to make a choice. I had no idea what I was doing. No one else in my family had gone to college before; I didn’t know what I was doing. It was so much pressure! DECIDE YOUR LIFE NOW.

Then one day in 12th grade English while discussing the novel 1984 by George Orwell I blurted out, “THIS. This is what I want to do with my life. This right here. I want to read books and talk about them. And get paid for it. What job is that?”

My teacher looked at me. He blinked and said, “That’s my job.”

Huh.

So I went to my band director (I am assuming that all high school band directors also double as therapists for their students, am I right here? By the way, Walker? I”m pretty sure I left a permanent dent in that leather couch thing in your office while I sat and did my self-centered angsty teen thing. Sorry not sorry), and I told him, “Torg thinks I should be a teacher.”

“You should. You’d be good at that. Go to Western.”

Ok, maybe that isn’t exactly what he said. I”m sure what he actually said was more inspiring since I took his advice, but that is all I remember.

So I went to Western Michigan University and majored in English and minored in Spanish.  How I got that Spanish minor is another story of procrastination and last minute decisions that change my life, but that is also for another time.

Along the way through college and grad school and even now there have been (and are) teachers and students and professors and family members and friends who have shaped who I am as a teacher.

Teaching has also shaped who I am as a parent.

I am going to start telling those stories here. And sometimes I might just talking about writing. Because I don’t just do that here,  I teach it too.

It’s time this giant part of my life came home to the blog.

Back To School 006

(not my current classroom)

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. I was always playing school with my little brother too. I tell him I am greatly responsible for his giftedness!

  2. What a great introduction to this new subject on your blog. Looking forward to all the things you have to share. xoxo

  3. You are soooo teacherly.
    I think highly of teachers (and have an extra soft spot for them since my sister is one). It’s such a tough job, I know I couldn’t do it. Thank YOU for educating the next generation.
    I’m so excited for this new series on the blog, Katie!

  4. My niece used all the smaller cousins as her ‘students’. She had a long skirt and white shirt, what her favorite teacher would wear in grade school. Now she is studying to be a nurse. How we got from the little teacher to that I have no clue but she loves it.

  5. I love to hear stories of how people come to their chosen paths. I love that you recognized it when it found you and said “THIS!” Your gut-reaction was spot-on, it seems. 🙂

  6. The part about you teaching your younger brother made me giggle. I used to do the same thing with my younger sister only she often didn’t want any of it. But I did always love “teaching” and like you I went through that phase with math, physics etc. But I have always loved history and languages… I am in a spot right now trying to figure out what it is I want and I’m very torn! Can’t wait to read more about this part of your life.

  7. I couldn’t agree more..that teaching FOUND YOU and CHOSE you. Like a love story, it’s the one thing I think of when you come mind after your smile. You TEACH me something about living, loving, parenting and friendship every time I come to this space.

    I am so glad you heard your calling and listened, we are all better for it.
    XO

  8. You have so many memories of high school. I have very few – blocked most of it out. (this probably is a good thing in my case)

  9. Love this story! Those moments of revelation are so great, and I can tell you found exactly the right path. Also, bringing those stories here? Yay! Fantastic.

  10. I always liked to play restaurant. Must explain why I like to eat at them so much. 😉

    Oh, just kidding. And yes, band teachers (and choir teachers) are excellent counselors! I am so glad you are going to share more of this part of you with us!

  11. This made me laugh out loud…” the learn it or die method” and ” that’s my job.” There is way too much pressure on seniors to decide their lives right. now. I took a full two years in college before choosing a major!

  12. What a great intro to your new addition to the site. I love hearing about your teaching and writing. I always wanted to be a teacher and I did teach theater through high school and college, but then I couldn’t keep up with my school loans after so I went into banking to pay them off. And I’m impressed with your vivid memories of high school too!

  13. I love this, and I know you are a great teacher. I can’t wait to learn more about this part of your life.

  14. With two parents as educators, I always played teacher/school growing up and thought for a long time that I would also be in education. I love teachers and I have no doubt that you chose the right path or it the right path chose you. (:

  15. What is it about HS band directors? We used to purposely come to school early every day, and stay late every day, just to hang out in the band room and shoot the shit (and get some therapy) from our band director.

    Also, that’s a great story! Kind of the “lightning bolt” of realizing what you want to be. My lightning bolt came as I was laying in bed one night trying to decide where I wanted to go next career-wise. Then BAM! Teacher! I can’t wait to get started, it seems like most folks doing it, like you, just LOVE it!

  16. I LOVE this story.

    Especially this:
    Then one day in 12th grade English while discussing the novel 1984 by George Orwell I blurted out, “THIS. This is what I want to do with my life. This right here. I want to read books and talk about them. And get paid for it. What job is that?”
    My teacher looked at me. He blinked and said, “That’s my job.”
    Huh.