I started my teaching career in a position called the “Aspiring Teacher” program while working on my Masters degree at Trevecca Nazarene University. An aspiring teacher position is like being a student teacher for a complete school year while working on your graduate degree and you get paid. The pay isn’t much, but it was better than nothing. The deal for the aspiring teacher program was your university placed you in one of the 3 lowest scoring schools in the district. As I left for my interview the last thing my dad told me was that he was praying I did not get the job because of where the school was located. That was a terrible feeling. He was only looking out for my little sheltered self. In my interview the principal said “Toto, you’re not in Kansas anymore.” I was offered the job two days later.
During my aspiring teacher year I learned more than I could have thought possible. I was placed with what I consider a perfect match as a lead teacher. She took me under her wing and let me figure things out without ever letting me fail. (Shoutout Erica if you’re reading this!) It was a year of growth. I learned about part of my city that I never knew existed. I watched students come in and sleep for the majority of the day because they didn’t have beds at night or their parents were up all night fighting so they were up all night scared. Basically, I was exposed to all things unfamiliar.
Fast forward to December, I was unofficially offered the job as the lead teacher for the next year. I officially accepted in May 2014.
August 2014, the year I would become a real teacher. The dream I had since I was a little girl and played school with my sister. My name was Ms. Jennifer and Jordyn’s name was Ms. Julie. We loved those names. Back to the point… It was a year that helped me grow into myself, prepare my heart for emotional and hard situations, and learn how to teach in the midst of being a mom, caretaker, nurse, and teacher.
Some facts about our school:
1. We served every homeless shelter in Nashville
2. Our mobility rate was always in the 70-80% range
3. 100% free/reduced lunch
4. We served breakfast, lunch, and snack daily (dinner to those who stayed for tutoring)
I taught at my school for 3 years as lead teacher. Each year bringing its own challenges and successes. There were days I was not sure I could spend another hour pouring into my students emotional needs and there were days I left feelings like our class had the best day ever. Experiences are what help build meaning in life.
When you look back on your life, what is it that you do that you remember most?
We all have highs and lows and the in-betweens. Some of my experiences were some I will never forget. When you watch a child’s eyes light up when they write their name for the very first time and scream “I DID IT!” it really is the best feeling. Or when a student writes a sentence that looks like: the jraf is rle big and you immediately know The giraffe is really big is what they’re writing and when you read it back correctly their smile is the most beautiful smile in the world at that moment. Those moments are why I teach. It also warms my heart when you hear “Mom, can you help me?” and they don’t even realize they just called you mom. Then there’s those moments where you wish they didn’t happen. A kid comes in and tells you he hasn’t had water in two days so they pee out in the yard. Or when a kid comes in covered in poop down to his shoes. Or when the girl comes in crying because she was beat the night before and has bruises all over her legs. Or when the boy tells you he has your death planned and he will jump off the bridge into the river after he kills you. Those moments give you perspective on life.
You see, these students live hard lives. They live in a world that I sometimes don’t understand and it’s hard to wrap my mind around. My job is to teach them to the best of my ability and give them every thing I can for the 10 months that I have them in my room. In those 10 months, they are covered in love.. but it’s not all from me. Actually, most of it isn’t from me. They receive food bags every Friday from donations, they receive clothes when they need them, they receive shoes when theirs are worn, they receive a safe place, they receive books, and the list goes on. My favorite is Christmas when I have asked for donations and my people have gone ABOVE and BEYOND for my kids. Some of my best friends went to Target with me and picked out one thing from every students wish list AND bought it. The next year, they bought coats for the entire school. Yall, my friends rock. Other friends gave money for pajamas, toys, books, and anything you could imagine to give these kids an unforgettable Christmas. Some of these friends I have only “known” through social media and STILL gave. So shoutout if you’re one of these friends (and special shoutout if you have shopped with me for them because that’s a task).
All of this to say, I have thoroughly enjoyed my job the last 4 years. I am moving schools for the 2017-2018 school year. The purpose of leaving is not because I hate my job. I have come to a place where I am completely desensitized to my students needs. Real talk: It no longer bothers me that a kid sleeps on the floor and doesn’t eat at night or that a student has no running water at home or a student slept in a car the last week and I wonder why he cannot complete his work. It’s tough to admit that you no longer care about those things, but it happens. It almost becomes “normal” in a sense to hear those things. It should never be okay for me to feel this way and because of that, I have to step back and work in an environment that doesn’t have as extreme of needs. It’s still a school that will have a population with students in poverty, but on a different scale. This will be my year of transition. A year of adjusting to new and figuring out my place in a new building. And here’s to it!
My question for you (teacher or not) is:
When you changed jobs or schools, what is one piece of advice you would give to someone to help make the transition go smoothly?