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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

to restore hope and order again and again

"I don't want to be a teacher," I say, over and over and over again, the night before I take the CBEST, the emergency credential test you take in order to become a substitute teacher.

I come from a long (ish) line of teachers. I think half the people on my dad's side of the family all work in the same school district, my mother, brothers and I included in that. I was almost quite literally raised in the classrooms my mom has taught in. I've heard it all when it comes to teachers complaining about students/parents/principals/other teachers. most of the people I felt closest to growing up were teachers, not for instance, kids or peers my own age. I know some of them even saved my life during the hardest years of being bulled in middle school/junior high.

...and despite all this, I still don't want to be a permanent teacher.

and this bothers me, and it worries me too. I know how important teachers are to society. I know, intimately well, how important and rare good teachers are and how easily bad teachers slip through the cracks. I know that within me is the capacity for being a good teacher, because I have had so many examples in the past and in my present.

After I graduated college in 2015, I didn't work immediately in the year that followed, apart my typical job of babysitting. then in the beginning of 2016, I applied and was accepted by the school district my mom works for, to be para-educator, which is a fancy word for a teacher's aide. I've been in at least five different schools since then, left my first job after a month, was unceremoniously fired from the second one after about two weeks, and since then, have worked in various schools as a substitute para-educator. after I give people this long-winded explanation, the usual response is something along the lines of, "so that's something you want to do?"

"no," I reply.

"but you've been working at this so long!"

"yes, I know, but I don't want to."

"you're good at this, though! you should totally be a teacher!"

"I know I am, but it's not what I want to do."

"maybe you'll change your mind eventually."

..."BUT I DON'T WANT TO BE A TEACHER," I yell into the void.

it's been a worry of mine for the past few years, that my dream job as a writer/librarian is just...not practical, not sensible, not reasonable enough for me. that I should set my sights on something with more security, more stability, although if 2016 taught me anything, it's the fact that job stability is a myth. that I should aspire to do something worthier than sitting around typing made up stories for people to read.

and then I came to a realization.

you want to know how those teachers saved my life in middle school/junior high? they gave me stories, they let me read. they didn't suggest I try to read within my grade level or what everyone else was reading. they let me read what I wanted, what I loved. they let me hang out in the library with Mrs. Alvarez the school librarian and Mrs. Alvarez in turn, let me organize her shelves and never complained when I stopped in the middle of putting books back to read those selfsame books. they encouraged me to write and never asked, "are you sure you can read that?" when I came to school with the Lord of the Rings tucked under my arm. (admittedly, not all of them were like this, eighth grade is when a very misguided teacher forced me to read the unabridged edition of Crime and Punishment because she thought I wasn't "challenging myself," and that's how I developed my never-ending grudge against Russian literature.)

teachers and librarians and stories saved my life. when I think about what I want to do with my life, it's that--give stories. write stories for the kids who need them. give a world within a book for someone to find shelter in. to give kids like me a chance to find solace in a book I loved when I was a kid.

I want that to be my legacy, the planting seeds in a garden that I may never get to see.    

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