I don't know if I was ever truly a bad teacher.
I have taught classes badly.
I have been an unprepared teacher.
I have been a distracted or unfocused teacher.
I have been a teacher relatively lacking in experience and/or knowledge, especially before I went back to school.
But, and maybe it's just relative youth, I've never not wanted to help my students, whether they were 5 or 85.
But I wasn't great, once upon a time. And sometimes I look back to that and I feel bad that I didn't teach them the way I teach my students now.
It's a shame, because this happens a lot here in the States. We send our least experienced teachers to the most difficult areas, and most of them either leave the area or the profession as soon as they can because they aren't supported.
I think about myself, teaching in a cushy life in South Korea, and how, had I been in Teach for America instead, I would have had a bit more guidance but still would have been prone to only sleeping a few hours before class (because 21 year olds are stupid). I also had dumb and immature beliefs about class and gender back then, and I wonder how they might have diminished my abilities with kids from struggling communities.
This all could have gone differently, too. My plan, upon leaving Korea, was to enter Teaching Fellows, but I was rejected, and then applied to the grad school program I got into. I'm not sure I'd still be a teacher if I had gone that way.
It's really a shame, because most teachers don't get the chances I did to figure out what kind of classroom leader they are without the pressures of an inner city classroom with zero budget.
It's at the point, now, where I stride to the front of the room, plant my feet, engage every student, and I am afraid of nothing. I've had a lot, a lot of fears in my life, some silly, some justified, but put me in front of a class of students who are, at the very least, more than zero percent engaged, and I'm not scared. I don't care what I look like or what my voice sounds like. I know I know what I'm doing.
It's been nine years since this started. I probably won't be the same teacher 30 years from now. But I do know that, in some fashion, I'll be standing in front of a classroom at least some of the time, because although I stumbled into it out of desperation when college ended, I'm flying now.
Would that everyone could feel that strength after searching for it for so long.