I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.
I may not have always realized it, but I instantly felt at home when I finally stepped back into a public high school for a field experience requirement. The sound of pages flipping in a textbook, an “aroma” of generic brand floor cleaner, the cornucopia of conversation amongst the students throughout the 7-minute passing period. Snippets of sports statistics, anime recaps, and seemingly trivial teenage drama. Reverberations of Shakespeare’s words and the breakdown of a cell’s structure are intertwined and etched in between.
All of it just felt like home.
Now, when I say I was good at teaching, I have the resume to prove it. Not only was I good at it, but I also enjoyed it. Every day, I felt like the coach of a Super Bowl-bound football team in my classroom. We had a goal; we had a mission. More importantly, we learned, and we had fun doing it.
Sure, I was stressed, overstretched, and underpaid, but it didn’t really seem to matter much in the grand scheme of things. I’d mutter under my breath, occasionally, that I should have pursued a career in something more “cubicle-like.” Still, I’d quickly move on to appreciating doing something I wholeheartedly loved. My classroom felt like a place of hope and opportunity. It was my view into the future, and I found comfort in that.
That is, until one day when my view shifted.
We had our routine lockdown drill. My students huddled in their spots and kept quiet until we were released from the hold. These drills were probably the only time I didn’t have to harp on them for being on their beloved cellphones: even though they knew the severity of them. (See a fellow Indianapolis Mom’s take on intruder drill’s here.)
As we returned to our daily agenda, a student asked me what I would do if an active shooter were near our classroom. I nonchalantly, as if I had no doubt in my mind, responded with my plan, the strategy that I had prepared in my head in case that nightmare was ever actually to happen.
Once my students began their independent work, I sat down at my desk to take attendance. Then, it dawned on me. I quickly looked around my classroom: it had no windows. A silly detail I had once whined about now seemed much more gruesome. I felt a pit in my stomach as I realized my classroom had one entrance – which meant it also only had one exit.
Suddenly, the room grew smaller, and soon, I found it hard to breathe.
I’d spent hours decorating a room that now seemed to shrink around me. Of course, I pushed through the rest of the day, as teachers usually do, but that conversation has stuck with me ever since that day so many years ago.
Now, I left the classroom for a plethora of different reasons. Yet, more and more, I find myself itching to get back to it. I crave the feeling of helping a student reach their reading goals. I long for the adrenaline rush when students engage in a lesson I designed and created.
However, with every nudge I give myself to head back to the classroom, the more it seems these tragic events keep happening across the country.
I’m no fool. I know that – windows or not – things happen. I once had a therapist address my fear of dying with the statement, “You know, you could have died driving here today, right?” The data doesn’t lie, though. Our country’s students — our country’s children — are being attacked, and the problem only seems to be getting worse.
I now fear the one place that used to feel like home now fills me with anxiety. Fortunately, as an adult, I have both the experience of a world before all of this and the choice to avoid going back to teaching if I so wish. (I cannot even imagine what it would be like to be a student today.)
Yet, the further I get away from my teaching days, the closer my daughter gets to her student ones—a whole new perspective on it all. Whether or not I decide ever to teach again seems irrelevant when something I always thought I’d look forward to as a parent now fills me with complete dread. My mind often thinks of the educators, students, and parents of the schools these days. With each new headline, my heart aches.
My days are now filled with Daniel Tiger recaps from my daughter, and the walls echo with her laughter. I do dishes instead of grading papers. I make snack plates rather than lesson plans. I can wear jeans whenever I want and take longer than 20 minutes to eat lunch (IYKYK). I am no longer underpaid, as I get paid in unconditional love and snotty kisses. Honestly, it’s all pretty perfect. A privilege, actually.
And yet, there is no small talk in the hallways or loud bell to signal a transition. No cheesy morning announcements or over-the-top “prom-posals.” There aren’t spirit days or celebrations for reaching reading goals. No one does a little dance when they get a good grade. I don’t know the latest trends; I have no one with which I can share my latest Young Adult literature finds.
Therefore, as much as I love this life I now live, I really hope positive change is coming for the sake and safety of today’s educators and students — because I’d really like to come “home.”