I had an epiphany one afternoon back in October. I was over at Fairfax tutoring in a classroom that is nurturing, challenging, supportive, creative, . . . everything an elementary classroom should be (and what, unfortunately, too few are). And I realized: This is what I do. This is who I am.
I am a teacher.
So I went straight home and, after unflinching encouragement from Mark, called the Ohio Department of Education and was dismayed to learn that I needed a whopping 12 credit hours to renew my license, which I had let completely expire during my years of caring for Austin. How on earth would I find the extra time to actually go to class in addition to all the other things I’m in charge of right now? Aaaahhh, enter the world of online education. And University of Phoenix. I had a rather funny phone call with the admissions guy whose initial question was, “Do you have a high school diploma or equivalent?” By the end of my list of degrees, he simply said, “Oh, that’s an impressive resume.” And suddenly, I was a student again, enrolled in what turned out to be a fascinating exploration of social studies instruction in the elementary classroom (my personal fave).
My first official day of class (Election Day) coincided nicely with that Facebook post from one of my old fourth graders, mentioned here, which further reinforced that I was doing the right thing. More recently, one of my old third graders from Compton posted a photo of our class, circa 1995, which resulted in a 134-comment-long conversation on Facebook where my “kids,” now twenty-somethings with jobs and children and spouses of their own, reminisced about the books we read, the field trips we went on, the school-wide Olympics we organized, the Multiplication Masters tests they all mastered. They remembered things I had completely forgotten, like that we grew alfalfa sprouts and then I made them all try them in a sandwich (with very limited success, as evidenced by their still-disgusted-after-all-these-years comments!).
I love teaching. And, because of that love, I have completely overstepped my role as a PTA mom in the past few years, as I spend my time organizing and implementing academic initiatives instead of bake sales. (I don’t doubt that there is more than one teacher on that staff who has thought, “Get your own classroom, lady!”) Right now, the largest portion of my overflowing plate is Science Week, something I casually proposed at a PTA meeting over the summer and which i am now completely running. (Anyone interested in volunteering in any way, let me know. It’s all day, every day, January 28 through February 1 at Fairfax, and you don’t have to be a scientist to help out.)
I am currently halfway through my second course and expect to be done by mid-May. And I am so thoroughly excited to have my own class again. But of course, I’ve never worked since having my own kids. I mean, I know people do it all the time; most of my girlfriends are working moms, at least part-time. But it scares me! My life right now is so easy. I can work out every morning while the kids are at school and can take off for vacation whenever the opportunity arises. I can volunteer for almost any cause I’m passionate about (well, that’s not quite true because I’m passionate about way more causes than there are hours in the day, but still…). Most of the hats I wear come from helping out the schools (district chair of Kindernet, coordinator of the Many Villages tutoring program, PTA vice-resident, Lay Facilities Committee member) and those would all naturally fall by the wayside if I was an actual employee. In order to maintain as much sanity in my life, and to be able to be as engaged in my own kids’ education as much (or more!) than I am right now, I would really really love to teach in their school. Of course, there are no openings there right now and no obvious retirements at the end of this year and I don’t even know if the district has a policy about parents teaching in the buildings their children attend, but one can hope.
All of this is actually a very long excuse for the pathetically scant blogging I’ve done over the past few months. I still have plenty to say (shocking, right?), but no time left to say it! But this does feed nicely into my next post, which will be about the value (or lack thereof) of homework in elementary school. Get your comments ready, folks . . . .