I Never Wanted to be a Teacher: Pt. III

I Never Wanted to be a Teacher: Pt. III

My mentor Sabrina and that short conversation shimmined into the forefront of my mind in that coffee shop, likely a few days after my visit in jail. TFA filled both of my boxes: a job after graduation and only a two year commitment to get my shit together for grad school. I was hanging all that I had on this opportunity even though I knew the interview and selection process were lengthy and highly competitive. Still, I did not apply for another job. In very non-Suzy fashion, I trusted that everything would figure itself out.

I suppose that was my first jab at manifestation because a few months later the email of congratulations from TFA flew into my inbox.

I was grateful for a plan and even more grateful that my placement was close to home. I knew TFA to be “grueling” and was grateful to be close to my parents. “For now, I will teach,” I told myself. And I was glad! For two years I could try my hardest to be the mentor and cheerleader my kiddos needed and nudge them onto a “better” path. 

But then I quickly realized that I was too naive and “too” hopeful. I don’t even blame the veteran teachers at my placement school for giggling at my personality. I only lasted one quarter and those details aren’t necessary because this is not a story about TFA after all; it’s a story of how I somehow fell into being a teacher.

I was again in a familiar position: Directionless College Graduate. 

I did two things. Well, first I drank a bottle of wine with my mom on the couch and THEN I did two things: I applied to be a poolside bartender at a prestigious resort in south Florida and I applied to an English teaching position at my old high school that was miraculously open in the middle of the first semester. 

I already had all of my teaching certifications and figured I wouldn’t put those months of TFA training to waste. They were valuable but also a hardcore pain in the ass. I had both interviews on the same day and then there I was, choosing the responsible decision over the fun one (is that when I realized I was an adult?).

Still I thought this would be temporary. I would finish out the year or maybe do a second. But soon the desire to go back to school left me. And more importantly, I realized after a few months that teaching was all that I wanted and more: I could mentor and counsel my students as I’ve always wanted. But, l also had the opportunity to become emotionally invested in their wellbeing and growth in a way that I couldn’t in a professional counseling setting.

The experiences I had and memories I cherish from that year are invaluable. There was the time I wrote a referral to a student and went home crying the next day when I found out that his mother shaved his head for it. Or the fact that every single seventh period somehow made me smile after a rough day. Or when I was reading Of Mice and Men to my students and kept saying “PORNograph” instead of “PHONograph” and nobody corrected me until the end of the day. And of course, this was ALL before I came to the liberating realization that I didn’t have to grade every. single. assignment. So I’ll also never forget those late nights.

I was able to teach that group of students again during their senior year, the pandemic graduation year, and it was immensely special (and heartbreaking for obvious reasons). The group of kids that I was told were “hellacious” ended up being the angels who assisted me in finding my passion, blew my heart wide open, and taught me that it is possible to find fulfillment in a career.

Thank you class of 2020! #MsDeanLovesYou!

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