Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I touch the future. I teach.

That's what it says on the cover of my handsome teaching portfolio, anyway.

Welcome! My name (well, my pseudonym) is miss brave, a clever little play on my real name and a sweeping statement about my feelings toward my chosen career all at the same time. Today I received an official offer of employment as a teacher from the New York City public school system. I won't be teaching full time in NYC until September 2007, but I want to be able to reflect on my entire teaching experience -- the successes, the failures, the reminders of why I became a teacher in the first place -- and so I decided to start this blog.

So what led me here? When I was a sophomore in high school, I had to complete a certain number of volunteer hours in order to graduate. The easiest thing to do was be a teacher's assistant at my temple's Hebrew school, and the principal there placed me in the first grade because he thought the younger kids would need the most help. I had no siblings, only one younger cousin, and until that point had never even had a babysitting job. All of a sudden I found myself in a room full of six-year-olds...and I was terrified.

For about an hour. Then I saw something wonderful in them -- their humor, their wonder, their knowledge. I worked with first-graders there for three years, and when I got to college, I made the major leap to the teaching certification program.

It was not an easy decision. Becoming certified to teach elementary school as an undergraduate is a fairly substantial commitment. There are the 36 credits from a variety of subject areas outside one's chosen major. There are the weekly observations in elementary school classrooms. There are the lesson plans, the reflections on teaching philosophy, the discussions about everything that's wrong with the American education system and how we as teachers can change it. And there's the student teaching practicum, which turns you into a full-time teacher overnight while everyone else is partying away their last semester in college.

And all along, I wasn't sure I really even wanted to be a teacher. I knew I wanted to work with children, and I knew I was passionate about education, but I wasn't sure the classroom was the right place for me. Still, I thought, the teaching certification couldn't hurt. After college, I went straight to a graduate school program in Child Development -- an M.A., not an Ed.M. I wanted something broad, something interdisciplinary, in case I decided on a different career option.

So how did I come back to teaching? Because in every other job I've had, I've always found a little voice in the back of my mind whispering, "You'd rather be teaching right now." Because the fact is that teaching is the hardest job I've ever done, but it's also the most rewarding. And the more I weigh the pros and cons of taking NYC up on their offer versus continuing to search for a different job in the meantime, the more I think: I want to do this.

They say that to teach is to touch lives forever. It's time for me to find out.