I often wonder the results if I had taken a career- and personality-match test in college before declaring my major. Well, let’s see: at that point in my life, I was in an unhealthy relationship, I loved to party, and I enjoyed writing. A career drinker or a blogger? With a little nudge from my best friend, I declared a special education major in community college and transferred to a university. I went through the courses with amazing instructors and shlepped through a less-than-enjoyable student teaching internship. I did it though – I got that silly diploma, bought that ugly gown, and have a teaching certificate! Who knew that a surprise pregnancy would change my mind completely about how I wanted to live the rest of my life?
There were signs all along that journey telling me this is not what I want to do.
Doing it all for the wrong reasons
In school, they say that you should possess certain characteristics in order to be a successful teacher. I thought that my compassion, comfort, and patience around people with special needs would make me a great special education teacher but I’ve come to find out that I’m just a compassionate, comfortable, and patient person. People always said, “Oh wow, it takes a special person to go into that” or “You’ll get a job right away; good for you!” I’ll admit – I vainly chose special education because everyone said there is a high demand for special education and I was glad because I have loans to pay off and I wanted to give back to my parents. Of course there are desperate demands for public school teachers. I’m just not willing to move to Alaska or podunk trailer town in Texas to nab one, signing bonuses or not!
I was ill-prepared for the bureaucracy
I met with plenty of teacher mentors for observations and meetings. You know what they all said? There is too much paperwork in special education. That is the one thing they hate about teaching because it takes away from teaching, time for prep, and the students. I thought my excellent cramming skills perfected in college would totally shine on my OCD-like tendencies. In a certain district where I reside, there’s this huge binder with pre-written goals and objectives so you wouldn’t have to come up with any on your own. While I understand that is a huge help, I don’t see how personalization fits in when an IEP stands for “individualized education program.”
Anybody can be a teacher, ANYBODY
If you’re the grammar police like I am, you want to de-friend that one friend who misspells too much, misuses “their” and “there,” or has the personality of a wet dish rag. My master teacher had such poor articulation on paper and in person that I was more than sure that teaching certification programs will certify ANYBODY. Maybe I chose the wrong age group or agreed to work in the wrong school, but her personality was so anti-me that I was uncomfortable. I’m not so vain that I hate all who have poor personalities but when someone talks behind someone’s back and gangs up on a classroom aide because of their personal or political beliefs, I’m definitely not your fan. I still stand by my radical belief that teaching programs and military recruitment should implement a character test. I wouldn’t want an illiterate or a moral-less personality teaching or serving our country, respectively.
Getting a job sucks
I know landing a job in general isn’t fun but even with a special education degree, it’s not fairies and unicorns. They don’t hire you because of lack of experience but you can’t gain experience if you’re not hired. It’s a vicious cycle, man. Or maybe I think I’m a better educator than I really am. It probably was the less-than-stellar letter of recommendation from my master teacher because I gave up halfway through my stint. It was discouraging and depressing. The only interviews I was offered were due to the fact that I name-dropped or I attended school there many years ago. It was never because I graduated magna cum laude and had a conditional scholarship, but who I knew or how I was associated.
Schedule and pay doesn’t work for me
I can’t be the mother I want to be if I am away from my son Monday through Friday from 7:00 am until 3:00 pm. The traditional schedule of a school has been set in their ways since the dawn of, uh, education and it doesn’t look like they’re going to accommodate a mama’s schedule anytime soon. Sure there are plenty of breaks that will coincide with your child(ren)’s school breaks so you “can spend more time with them” but that still doesn’t make me all giddy about a teacher’s salary.
Those are the five reasons why I am willing to work two part-time jobs far from a teacher salary and NO benefits. Five opportunities to share the Lao language in our home. Five times I can watch him walk in front of me.
He is the reason I can be the best Mama I can be.