Going back to school taught me that I’m a teacher. As the proverbial “they” often say, when you find a profession suited to you, a calling of sorts, you’ll just know it. For me, I wouldn’t say it was quite that easy. Teaching is a difficult profession. I often refer to my first year of high school teaching as “the time of darkness” because of how often I found myself at the end of my fuse, out of energy, confidence, and, oftentimes, health. I sometimes wondered if I were cut out for teaching, if it truly were something that I was “meant” to do. Even after that first year, I met many challenges throughout my teaching. In fact, I didn’t meet my most challenging students until I was into my fourth year as a teacher. However, I still loved stepping in front of my students each day, and I found myself caring about the lives and learning of even my most difficult students.
Then, I decided to further my own education by going to graduate school, taking the role as student for the first time since I’d started my teaching career. Luckily, I was also fortunate enough to earn a spot in a master’s program that allowed me to be a GTA throughout my years of study. That’s right – I was going to get to be teacher AND student! Transitioning back to the role of student was exciting and empowering, so much so that I worried I would lose some of my teaching spark. I even wondered if I would resent teaching as an obligation that stole away time from my own academic pursuits. Yet, I quickly found that when I stepped in front of my freshman composition students, that same love of teaching emerged. Even when I was stressed out about my own work, helping my students with theirs invigorated me. Indeed, speaking and reading with my students each semester has helped my own writing in ways that I wouldn’t have guessed, showing me in a direct way what I suspected all along – that I learn from my students as often as they learn from me. They help me to grow in ways that I could never grow on my own, and they help me do things that I couldn’t do by myself. Thus, I can’t imagine my life without teaching or, I should say, without learning, because I just can’t help myself – I want to help them, and they give that help back in spades.