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At the beginning

February 1, 2010

In some ways, there is no beginning. Everything comes from something else. In my case, my journey to teaching began long before this. Ever since I started college in 1995, I imagined I would end up teaching. You see, I was majoring in French and Russian and wanted nothing to do with business, government, or translation. There’s not much left for foreign languages. That said, I was shy. Even when I knew I was right about something, I never said a word in class. I was resentful of teachers who thought that meant I wasn’t prepared. I was always prepared; I just wasn’t always brave.

I had a French teacher in junior high who was a really sweet lady. I always thought of myself like her. She couldn’t control the classroom. No one ever got anything done, because the kids yelling out “Bonn-jer peoples!” always had their way. I learned a smattering of badly pronounced French words and a relatively good grounding in grammar, but most of that was from reading the textbook, not from her teaching. I did not want to end up like her, and I was convinced that I had her disposition. I was convinced that I was a doormat and would never make a good teacher . . . unless I was teaching college.

I started my grad school program with lofty ambitions. People told me I was ambitious, but I thought they were crazy. I just wanted a degree so I could teach at the college level. I wasn’t a real scholar, so I didn’t have to worry about all that scholarly stuff, right?

Wrong. I got my Masters in French after three years, and worked on a Russian Masters for another three years. Near the end of my second year, I got extremely burned out. I took the rest of the year off and tried to convince myself I was giving myself time to study for the Masters exam. When the Masters exam came, I failed it.

During my years as a grad student, I taught first and second year French and Russian classes, and I loved it. I knew I wanted to teach, but I was getting more and more bitter about the need to be a “real scholar” just to teach. Yes, I knew research was necessary, but I did not understand really how important it was.

After leaving the Russian department, I was unemployed for a year, living off of an allowance from my parents. I finally landed a job as a developmental instructor at a center for developmentally disabled adults. It was challenging because there were never enough of us to give the people what they needed and deserved. I left every day feeling I’d failed these wonderful people by not spending enough time on teaching communication. I was miserable because I cared too much.

I also learned how to get a backbone. I learned how to deal with people who grabbed and pushed, who refused to listen, who spilled things, who yelled at other people and at me. I learned to be the center of calm in a sea of chaos. I learned what I had never thought was in me to be. I learned I can be a teacher.

So, here I am. I’ve spent the last two years taking English classes so that I can be certified as an English teacher, since they do not have a French or Russian program. I am just starting my third week of my first education class, and I’ve never been more excited in my life (well, except for when I’m starting a new novel). I want to do this more than anything I’ve wanted in my life. So, here I am. At the beginning.

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