What made you decide to become a teacher?
It was what I always wanted to do, even as a little girl. I don’t know why. I didn’t really have to think about it. But I did have a defining moment when I was a senior in high school. I had been pressured to consider higher-paying careers, so I took an anatomy class thinking I could work in the medical field. Within the first month of this class, I knew I was going to fail. The bulk of the work was memorization. I struggle with rote memorization and I had zero interest in the content. So I put in a request for a class change with my counselor. I have never dropped or changed a class before, but I thought it was my best option. It didn’t matter to me what else I took, I just didn’t want to suffer all year and fail the class. My counselor said no.
She said they were trying to stop students from changing classes frequently, so classes were set and that was that. This seemed incredibly unfair. I thought that I was doing the right thing and I was being shut down because of an administrative action that had nothing to do with my situation. I boiled for a little while, but then I got an idea.
I wrote a letter to the principal and vice principal. (The vice principal and I were on first name basis, due to my
daily tardiness). In the letter I expressed my outrage in the rule meant to keep students from abusing the system, being used against me- a student asking for support from the administration. I explained the pressure I felt from my family and how that had swayed my decision, but I was ready to make my own choices. I felt that I knew myself and that this was not the course for me. Was I a cringy, entitled teen with a grudge? Of course.
I had my English teacher review my letter to make sure it wouldn’t sound whiny. Then I placed the letter in an envelope and into the vice principal’s mailbox. The next day, I was called down to the principal’s office.
I instantly regretted everything.
I was sure that they were going to sit me down and scold me for trying to get my way when I was clearly told no. There were rules in place for a reason, and no one is exempt.
I walked in to see the familiar vice principal. This is fine. I talk with him all the time. Then, the principal joins us. I’m dead.
The principal explains that he’s read my letter and he has a few questions. First, if I dropped Anatomy, what did I want to take instead? I said that I was open to what was available, I just knew that the course was a poor choice for me. Then he asked, “Which career are you interested in?” and I said “teaching.”
He and the vice principal looked over my schedule and moved some things around, then asked me another question. “In place of your anatomy class, would you be interested in being a student teacher at the kindergarten down the street?”
WHAT?! YES! I was dumbfounded. I could not believe what had just happened. Looking back, I know that the principal was fairly new to the school and likely wanted to do something out of the box and demonstrate his skills in helping students succeed. By that I mean, this act of kindness could have been more about him than me. Either way, I reaped the benefits. I spent my entire senior year as a part-time student and a part-time student teacher.
Bonus- I was assigned to be a student teacher under my own kindergarten teacher. I thought she couldn’t possibly know who I was, seeing as it was 12 years ago that I was in her class. Then as she was introducing me to her students, she paused, smiled knowingly and asked “Ms. Bartlett? Was I your teacher when you were in kindergarten?” Yes. Yes, I was.
I have never doubted for one minute that I am a teacher, through and through.