I am not sure I knew I wanted to teach until I stepped into my first classroom in South Korea. I went there to try and change my life, but I wouldn't have had to fully pursue a career in education for that to be the case. I could have done what many of the people I knew there did and used the time primarily to travel and party.
(I certainly did those things, of course.)
I mention this because I went to my 15th high school reunion on Saturday (yes, after the race), and while it was nice to see my classmates and some of the staff, and also to hear the way that things have grown and changed, I was, and this is always true, mostly struck by how much I had learned from my teachers without even really knowing it.
I have known how much influence my professors in grad school had, since that was a professional degree and I remain engaged with them on a regular basis. And I regret how little I reached out to my professors in college, but there isn't much to be done about that now.
Yet those fourteen years beforehand, I was really being shaped and guided by exemplary educators.
I spoke to a few of my teachers, and, as usual, they remember some very specific things that used to astound me. But of course, I've been teaching (one way or another) for ten years myself, and I sure do remember many of the things I did when I first started doing this, and probably always will.
Not to get heavy, but I was going through a lot emotionally, like a lot of kids. I was smart but I lacked confidence and was very hard on myself when I didn't succeed. Indeed I often wouldn't put full effort in when I thought I'd fall short.
My teachers saw things in me that I couldn't see in myself, things I'm really only coming around to believing these days. So many people aren't lucky enough to have teachers who believe in them, especially not students of color, and I think, or I hope, that my belief in my own students, even though they're adults, means as much to them as it once did - and does - to me.
I just want to be as good of a teacher as the teachers I had. It's why I want to keep learning, reading, and writing, and eventually to make a real impact in the field. Whatever I end up doing, none of it would have happened if I hadn't had teachers who saw a kid who couldn't stop making jokes and goofing off in class and figured out that underneath was a fearful boy who just wanted acceptance. And they accepted me, annoying as I'm sure I was, even if I didn't realize it at the time.