I have ALWAYS wanted to be a teacher. I feel for the young people that have no clue about what they would like to pursue after high school. For me, there was absolutely no question.
I started attending a community college to complete general courses while I worked full time. I did this to save money and later transferred to a private college that provided classes on nights and weekends. It took me 6 years to obtain my degree: K-8 licensure with a social studies emphasis. I left school with debt but also bought a house with my boyfriend, later husband, at the age of 20. We did this because it was cheaper than rent.
When I first graduated, there was actually a surplus of teachers in my state, making job placement difficult. Many new teachers, if they were lucky enough to have other insurance—most likely covered by their spouse—went into the substitute pool to network and gain ‘classroom management’ experience. This is what I did.
Subbing was decent money for a job you didn’t have to take home with you. There were many rough days; me being a 24-year-old woman trying to engage and manage a classroom of students that were near my own age was certainly difficult. Students were inappropriate; some may call it sexual harassment. I was too young, however, to really see it.
I also would take the less sought-after classroom assignments just to have money for the day. One particular day I was subbing for students with significant behavioral and emotional disorders, a favor for a teacher friend of mine, and I got physically assaulted by one of my students. Bruises all over my arms and my breasts; I, a 25-year-old, 135-pound girl had this student in a chokehold after myself, an elderly paraprofessional, and 3 other students were assaulted. Police were called and I never got paid to stay after the workday to get interviewed by law enforcement and was never paid to attend court in the charges of this student. No one from the district contacted, except for the school’s principal, that emailed me a kind letter to encourage me to stick with teaching, even though he could imagine that I had my doubts about doing so. But I stuck with it.
Not every day sucked as a sub, though. I ended up having a good time some days; I loved hearing the stories of these kids. I typically subbed in the high school and found myself getting requests from teachers to have my sub. I was doing a good job. I was engaging the students, they were working, I wasn’t the sub that would just sit there. Many trusted me with actually teaching lessons, especially since I was fresh out of school and brushed up on my history, psychology, etc. I was subbing full-time once my name got out. Again, no benefits, but still getting paid. I would hear a story of a kid participating in the Martin Luther King Assembly, reciting a poem she wrote but her parents were working and couldn’t attend, so I ended up going. I was thrilled to get those open house invitations at the end of the school year, and I would go. I helped some apply for college and how to buy textbooks. I did enjoy these moments.
I ended up interviewing at a different district roughly 15 miles up the road and I got the job. It was a long-term sub assignment, 7th-grade history. I was thrilled. The teacher I was subbing for was a 40-something male teacher, strictly ‘read the book and test’ type. Students did not learn much and didn’t get large concepts of the state standards. But this teacher was tenured for several years, nearly untouchable employment-wise.