Updated: Oct 26, 2022
I graduated from college in May 2016 with a degree in Elementary (K-4) and Special Education (PreK-8). I walked across that stage feeling ready to take on my classroom, despite being nervous about how it would go. I found my dream job a few weeks later in a first-grade classroom at a Title I school in northern Virginia. I lucked out by being able to start my teaching career pursuing my passion area of first grade and Title I...or so I thought.
My year started with health difficulties, which then spiraled into professional difficulties, ultimately leading to me leaving my school at the end of that year. I share more of these stories in Edumagic Shine On: A Guide for New Teachers. My (surprise!) daughter was born on the last day of school, and I found myself a stay-at-home mom with a tiny human to teach. As most parents do, I felt unsure of how to handle this little alien creature that now lived with me and depended on me for every little thing, but as she slowly grew, I saw that she was just another student...although one I was especially invested in. Starting with physical development, I saw skills developing that many parents don’t think to notice. “She crossed midline!” when she grabbed her left foot with her right hand or passed objects from hand to hand. I knew different ‘tests’ I could do to assess her skills and fun games and exercises to help her grow in the most low-pressure environment. After all, my infant had no standardized tests or skills assessments, just my excitement, and pride as I watched her progress. In that way, my educational background helped me get through what I think was the ‘least rewarding’ year of parenting.
Then she started to talk and have big emotions. As I watched her language and behavior development and her peers develop, I realized that I absolutely LOVE early childhood development. Every day feels full of ‘aha!’ moments, and the skills they are learning are so basic...even more basic than addition and letter recognition! Being able to identify and regulate emotions, interact with others, problem-solve, communicate, seek help, and many more skills that are transferable from the playroom to the boardroom. I see other parents and kids who struggle through this stage that I enjoy...even on the hard days...and I want to give the parents the confidence and tools to help their kids learn through this time. From talking to those with older kids, this seems to be the most challenging parenting time, but it can also be the most rewarding if you approach it with a teaching mindset and the right tools in your toolbox.
As I continue to watch her learn more and more every day, I realize my passion has changed; I’ve moved from wanting to be the one to teach kids to read to wanting to teach parents how to help their kids succeed in early life skills. When I return to work, I hope to gain the certifications needed to become an early childhood development specialist and work with parents and their kids in their early childhood days. Early childhood and child development is the highlight of raising my daughter and, although difficult and tiring every day, is much closer to the fulfillment I was looking for in a classroom. So while my passion is, and always was, to be a teacher, the scope of that passion was a work in progress as I stumbled through my first-year challenges and landed smack dab in the land of parenting.
You may also find that your passion changes as you progress through your teaching career. Learn to see difficulty and discouragement in some areas as pushing you toward other areas you may love. Be open to trying new things if the things you are doing aren’t fulfilling or rewarding. This is already one of the hardest jobs, but when you find your passion, it also becomes the most rewarding. Maybe it’s a new grade level, specialty, school, or district that you are looking for, and you have no idea! If you go through year after year feeling discouraged, move on to new places before you give up for good. Someone else may love what you are doing, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right place for you. It can be scary to leave the familiar and move on to a new thing or place, but where you come out on the other side might surprise you...I know I was shocked!
Connect with Hannah Turk
1st grade T, Grove City College alum.
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