My students say things to me about my job all the time. ALL THE TIME.When I am quieting down the class and explaining something they don’t want to do (like in-class essay writing): “Man, Mrs. Sluiter, I would hate to have to grade all our papers. Being a teacher must suck.” When a student says something totally off-topic and ridiculous: “Dude. I could NOT do your job.” When I explain something, ask if there are any questions, and start to tell students to get to it and a hand goes up and asks, ‘Wait. What are we doing?’: “How do you deal with this all day, Mrs. Sluiter? I could NOT do your job.”
There are times though, when I’m talking one-on-one with students after school or between classes or whenever, and there are those who say, “I think I want to go into teaching.” Some even go on to say, “Because of you, Mrs. Sluiter.”
I think back to why I became a teacher and it was also because of the teachers in my life. No one in my family is or was a teacher; so I wasn’t following in anyone’s footsteps.
While I knew I had the gift of teaching very early in my life, it wasn’t until high school that the teachers I had helped me understand that I was made to be a teacher.
I bet if you ask any teacher they will tell you they were inspired and influenced by at least one other teacher. I don’t know any stories about choosing teaching that didn’t somehow include a teacher being a positive presence in their life. There were many, many great teachers in my life.
Mrs. Eaton, my Kindergarten teacher fostered my love of school from the get-go.
Mrs. Larson, my elementary school librarian, encouraged my love of reading.
Mr. Ambrose, my fifth grade teacher, was the first male teacher I ever had and pushed me in my writing.
Ms. Wheeler, my 7th grade math teacher, was hilarious and never judged me for not being the best math student, but believed I could do it anyway.
Mrs. Barnesse, my 7th grade English teacher, taught me that teachers are friends as she and Ms. Wheeler routinely called each other on the PA and razzed each other making us all giggle.
Mr. Gayler, my freshman Geometry teacher, taught me that teaching can be your forever career.
Mrs. Gase, my freshman English teacher and my sophomore Grammar/Vocab teacher taught me that not every teacher is going to like me even if I am smart. (And I am sure that all the kids who make my eye twitch are karma’s way of paying me back for making her eye twitch on the daily).
Mr. Jansen, my sophomore Advanced Algebra, junior Functions, Stats, and Trig, junior physics, and senior pre-calc teacher taught me that teachers can even like students who are just not good at their subjects.
Mrs. Bengelink, my junior American Lit teacher, taught me that I rocked at English class.
Mr. Walker, my high school band director, taught me that I am awesome and that I am a true leader.
Mr. Torgerson, my senior Brit Lit teacher, taught me that reading and then talking about reading can be a job…an awesome one.
Dr. Alan Webb, my prof for Teaching Literature taught me that teaching high schoolers about literature can change attitudes, lives, and the world.
Dr. Ellen Brinkley, the head of the Third Coast Writing Project and my faculty reader for my Master’s Degree Capstone Project, taught me that writing can change attitudes, lives, and the world.
It was all of these teachers who had me as a student along with all the teachers I have worked with and gotten to know in my decade of teaching that encourage me in my profession. I love my students and they amaze me daily, but if it wasn’t for the teachers in my life, I wouldn’t be in this career. When students tell me they want to become a teacher, or when I get word that past students have become teachers, I smile.
To know that I might be included on their lists of teachers who are the reason they are in front of a classroom is the ultimate compliment.
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