Updated: Mar 4
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 own classroom, despite being nervous about how it was all going to go. I found my dream job a few weeks later in a first-grade classroom at a Title I school in northern Virginia. I totally lucked out 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, and ultimately led 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. I felt, like most parents do, 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 really 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 do to help her grow in the most low-pressure environment. After all, there was no standardized tests or skills assessment for my infant, just my excitement and pride as I watched her progress. In that way, my education background helped me get through what I think of as the ‘least rewarding’ year of parenting.
Then she started to talk and have big emotions. As I watched her language and behavior development and watched her peers develop as well, I realized that I absolutely LOVE early childhood development. Every day feels full of ‘aha!’ moments, and the skills that 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 so 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 am enjoying...even on the hard days...and I want to be able 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 time of parenting, 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 want to teach parents how to help their kids succeed in early life skills. When and if I do go back to work, I hope to gain the certifications needed to become an early childhood development specialist and work with parents and their kids in the 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 find that your passion changes as you progress through your teaching career as well. Learn to see difficulty and discouragement in some areas as pushing you toward other areas that 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 to have, but when you find your passion area then 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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