The Best Job I Never Thought I'd Do

Some of you know me well, but others of you only know me through this blog. While you might know I am a teacher, my long and winding journey to get here might be a bit of a surprise. You see, I never planned to be a teacher. I scoffed at the idea when I was in high school. I rejected the notion that fueling the minds of the next generation could be fulfilling for me.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

When I started college, I majored in Political Science and English. When I graduated for years later, I attained both of those degrees. I believed I was headed to law school, but I never imagined that I would practice law. So, I headed to Clemson and started a grad program, which held little appeal for me in the long run.

Fast forward about 5 years. In that time, I worked in the non-profit and for profit sectors, never feeling fully satisfied after putting in my days. I remembered my childhood, when my mother was tired but exhilarated at the end of her days.

Until I stated high school, I never met my mother's students. She taught in another elementary school so we "ran in different circles." Even though I never met them, I felt like I knew many of them. They were her "kids," her "other" children, with whom she spent 8 hours a day. I was her full time kid-- the others were just on loan for the year. But, she talked about them, stressed about them, worried about them, laughed with them and cried with them.

Me with my former co-teacher, 2010-2011
Sometime in my min-twenties, I decided I wanted to teach. I did a LOT of training in every job I ever had, and it was always the thing that came most naturally. When the call came from a rural high school in North Carolina, I was beyond excited for the interview. Jeremy and I drove more than 8 hours to interview and were hired on the spot. So, in a whirlwind of activity, we packed up our life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and relocated to rural North Carolina.

I spent three of the best years ever teaching at that school. I learned so much about teaching and about humility during my time there. I had a fantastic group of colleagues who made each and every day fun. I worked for a boss who called 'em like he saw them, and nurtured me to foster the teacher-leader he knew I would become.

The World's Best Colleagues Dance for our students

That school, and room 259, became my second home. This was the first time I had students who were "mine." That is precisely how everyone on the staff saw them--Mrs. Wilson's students. My boss jokingly called me Mama Wilson because I was known to be a tough one when a kid needed it, but also a sympathetic shoulder to cry on when it was called for. I taught English to students, but I hope they remember more than just how to write a proper sentence. We used a very different model of instruction--a model which I still use today-- that asked students to think more deeply and more creatively about the world around them. It was the best time I've ever had that I got paid for. After working as a teacher, I knew I found my calling.

Yes, I was the crazy English teacher who dyed her bangs pink
because my students outperformed even my expectations! (2011)
I am currently a seventh grade teacher, once again teaching English, but this time to twelve year olds.  Every year, I worry that I won't connect with my students the way I did with that first class. I won't lie-- I probably have a greater connection with them because they were the first group of students I had the chance to teach. I also had the opportunity to teach most of them two consecutive years. Needless to say, on the day the Class of 2011 walked across that graduation stage, I shed more than a tear or two.

But, what I have discovered with each new school year is that students are students. They all need someone to give them boundaries and to challenge them to rise to the occasion. They all need motivated and nurtured. There is always another students who is looking to be my "kid" for the year. I'm still Mrs. Wilson, so in a way, I am still "Mama Wilson."

Motherhood might still be evasive, but in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the kids that are loaned to me each day. As I spend my nights writing lessons or grading papers, I smile when I think of the students who "get it" for the first time. I laugh when I think of the blunders they make when they are careless. But, most of all, I am grateful for the privilege of getting to know each and every student who is, was or will ever be one of "Mrs. Wilson's kids."


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