The year was 1981.
I opened my shoebox filled with rejection letters attached to teacher applications and threw in the 130th one. Since graduating, this year had been most discouraging. There was a glut in the teacher market. I tried everything I could think of to get my foot in the door.
Talking to a coworker at Sports Illustrated Court Club, where I worked after a day of substitute teaching, I was explaining that I was getting prepared to throw in the towel. It had been a week where I was getting called to sub, and that was great, but I felt like I would never get in the door, because schools really liked having that list of go-to subs.
He helped me fill out my application to Nursing School.
But when we finished, he said: “Don’t give up on doing something you really love to do.”
I had about 6 weeks to think about this before the new semester began.
It was near my birthday, in December, that Richard Njus called me in for an interview. It seems some shifting had gone on in their school system, and they immediately needed an Elementary PE teacher.
I was over the moon! Of course, I was so nervous, I had to leave the interview and splash water on my face, but I made it through and got hired.
I asked him what had made him call me? Was it my resume that I had fashioned like a travel brochure? Did he know someone who knew me? How had I come to make the grade to actually secure a full time job?
He told me it was because I had been a trusted substitute teacher. I had come in on snowy winter days, sat through Halloween parties, figured out how to teach when the sick teacher had no specific plans, had been just a reliable person. He also pointed out that he had no idea what kind of teacher I would be, but enthusiasm and passion were what won me the job.
Even after so many years, having worked with over 12 principals, 5 superintendents, curriculum directors, and plenty of parents, I am thankful for the vocation that called me to join it. Because it is a calling.
There were such high times that I often pinched myself that they were paying me to do this job I loved. There were also some very low times when co-workers or students died unexpectedly or when the thought of crawling to school another day to deal with students sucked the very life out of my body.
The largest benefit I had, came from within the walls of my school from my colleagues “in the trenches”. This network of people saw me through a very hard time in my life and formed an impenetrable force field around me. I, in turn, served my staff and teachers with the same give-and-take. It is a beautiful thing to work with a family every day.
I often wondered what I would do after I retired. How would I leave that supportive group behind?
Being on this side of the school walls is sort of like belonging to an elite club. You have shared in so many battles. You have so many “war stories” or wonderful reflections of times spent with the folks in the community. Amazing career, really.
The other day, I met a few of my former colleagues for coffee. A group of women came into the small town coffee shop. They looked over at us and said: “Oh. Look. There are some teachers…”
We shared greetings and one of them said: “Didn’t you teach in the gym?”
“ Ha. Ha. Yes. But that was back when I was in my 20’s. “, I replied.
My point is, the impression you leave, the network you build, and the commitment you decide to have for this career is worth much more than you can even imagine.
Don’t leave teaching for something else. Stick out being a sub if you can.
There really isn’t anything like it in the whole menu of possible careers.
Thanks for listening.