Why I Became A Teacher
Guest article by Jill Drum
A few years ago, I began planning my retirement for when I reached the end of 31 years of teaching. This June will be it, and as the date rapidly approaches, panic is setting in. My whole identity is that of a teacher. Even during time outside of the classroom, I clip relevant news articles to share or pick up souvenirs like geodes from the Grand Canyon to crack open and investigate with my students.
So who will I be and what will I do?
As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be an educator. “Want to play school?” was my favorite pastime, and of course, I always took the role of teacher. If I couldn’t find anyone to cajole or coerce, I would line up any available dolls or stuffed animals to fill in as my captive audience. I would even go as far as creating spelling tests for each “pupil” (with misspellings included), to create papers to grade.
My own elementary education was fraught with anxiety resulting in genuine school phobia while enduring eight years of parochial school in the late ’60s. Every story you ever heard about what went on is true….only worse. While attending public high school, I vowed one day I would become the teacher I desired for a child of my own.
Entering college in the ’70s, teaching jobs were scarce. We were discouraged from taking an education major. Therefore, I chose my second passion, writing and literature. One day in poetry writing course 101, a classmate began reciting poems written by fourth graders in his student teaching assignment.
I can still recall the chills running down my spine as I was extremely moved by what he had inspired and accomplished. That afternoon I made an appointment with my advisor to add a major of education and embarked on my journey the next semester.
Throughout my career, I have always tried to foster a love for learning as I obtain myself. My master’s degree led me to study abroad experiencing a student teaching stint in the suburbs of London discovering how drama can be used to make the curriculum come alive. To this day, my students still benefit from these activities.
After becoming a mom of two (one child with autism), I completed another degree, Special Education with a focus on Autism Spectrum Disorders. This degree enabled me to not only aid my own son, but those children with disabilities in my class as well. It also enlightened me to fully understand that students, ‘don’t often remember what you teach, but they always remember how you made them feel.’
In my final years, as the influx of common core standards and high-stakes testing began to alter procedures and evaluations, I became a political activist for my union lobbying legislators on behalf of sound educational practices for teachers and students throughout NYS. While much is still left to be done, I have seen some success of the fruits of my labor as moratoriums were enacted on APPR and our grassroots pursuits got pro-education candidates elected.
That means seven hundred plus opportunities to make a difference. The other day one of my fifth graders overheard some teachers discussing retirement. She approached me and inquired, “Are you retiring?” Still unsure about my decision, I responded, “I don’t know. Why?” She (out of the mouth of babes) replied, “Well you are an awesome teacher, but I think once you start having the children of students you once had, it’s time!”
She and another boy in my room fit the bill.
So who will I become? Is there something I can do to utilize my knowledge, skills, and passion for ensuring all children around the world are educated fairly, equitably, and safely?
As of now, I am still exploring options. However, I am most definite of one thing. While I may not miss marking papers anymore, I will always yearn for those smiling faces and inquisitive minds-and the extraordinary chance of motivating a new batch of students at the start of every year.