Monday, January 25, 2010

Almost Famous...

Bill Gates, Oprah, Rachael Ray, P Diddy...the list of famous working girls and boys goes on and on...they're known for their inventions, ambition, charity, and of course, money. Notice that not one that I mentioned (or one that you thought of on your own) is a teacher. Now I'm not going to get on my soap box and tell you that these icons would be nowhere if it weren't for their teachers, but these icons would be nowhere if it weren't for their teachers!


After I graduated college I met up with an old friend one night for drinks who was asking questions about me going back to school to be a teacher. He said, and I quote, "That's not even a real career, this grad school is just a waste of your father's money." You can imagine the heated battle it started and how quickly it fizzled out when I reminded him that if he didn't have teachers who taught him how to read and write he wouldn't be the aspiring writer that he is today.


I can remember the day in 3rd grade when I knew I wanted to teach. My favorite teacher (to this day) Mrs. K told me after a presentation I did on the state of Rhode Island that I'd be "a great teacher someday." Her words rang in my ears as I commuted to my 9-5 marketing internship in NYC the summer before my senior year of college when I realized I needed to make a change. I always wanted to teach. I used to line up my stuffed animals and give them fake tests as I sat at my makeshift desk with my grade book (that I actually made my mom buy me at a teacher supply store) and my mug of hot chocolate that I would "accidentally" spill on my students' tests and have to automatically give them all A's (did this happen to any of you in grammar school because I was constantly a victim of teacher-spilled-coffee-on-the-homework)


Mrs. K was the type of teacher that every elementary school student hoped to have. She let us listen to music while we were doing classwork, she taught us ballroom dancing at recess, let us watch Yankee games in class, and refrained from giving homework on days when Macy's was having a one day sale. She also made all of her clothes and always had the brightest color nail polishes. She would dry our tears when we failed a test and stick up for the girls if the boys ever teased us. I also know every state capital and my times tables with my eyes closed because of her. And the best posters and dioramas I ever made were in 3rd grade.


Last year Mrs. K got very sick. Her health decline very quickly. I had to let her know how much she influenced my decision to be a teacher. I wrote her a letter explaining how every time I hear of a Macy's One Day Sale I think of her and how I try to create a relationship with my students similar to the one she had with us. Unfortunately, I sent the letter one day too late. Her family read the letter though and wrote back to me but I hope she got the message anyway.


Now I am not writing this trying to convince everyone to be teachers or that teachers are the only reason any working girl can be successful, but rather this post is about inspiration. There are very few teachers (besides those portrayed in movies set in schools in the ghetto...and Dumbledore) that are portrayed in media as rich, famous, entrepreneurs like many of the other icons we are supposed to admire. Mrs. K inspired me to do what I always had a passion for, even though it may not be the most popular or trendy decision. Has there been anyone in your life that had the same effect?

10 comments:

Amber said...

I never forget my teachers, and many of us remember our favorites, and the fun times we had, but often times people forget to give teachers credit for the knowledge they gave us.

I once heard someone say "those who can't do, teach." I shuttered at this quote. Teachers deserve so much more than they get credit for. The have such a huge influence on our lives.

Girl About Business said...

I agree with Amber. A different teacher each year inspired me to do something different, but a few of the ones that stick out are: my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Klein told the best stories, had 2 beautiful children whom I would give my old books to, and she'd always bring me pink seashells from the beaches that she visited. My 7th grade science teacher taught me to appreciate science and all that it has to offer to the world. Another person who wasn't a teacher of mine, but the director of Academic Games at my school taught me to think outside the box when it came to math. Most importantly my high school accounting teachers showed me another avenue, and encouraged me to pursue that dream if I wanted to. Before high school accounting, the profession was foreign to me. In less than 6 months, I'll have my BBA in Accounting and I owe that to Mrs. Stevenson and Mrs. Schwartzhoff :-)

Herding Cats said...

I'm really glad you are writing for Working Girl. I'm a teacher too, and it's nice to have yet another public voice out there. When I tell people I teach, I get a lot of disbelief that I would "settle" for a job in which I make very little money and deal with lots of crap, but the rewards outweigh those found in any other job I've experienced. This post was refreshing - thanks!

gemarina said...

As a future teacher, entries like this always make me smile. I'm so going to be a Mrs. K... (fingers crossed, knock on wood, throw some salt.)

I can't say I ever really thought about the lack of "ambition" in teaching, but now that I have it's unsettling. Mostly because it's kind of really true... nobody in my program is doing it because they're ambitious or charitable or inventive or seeking to make their own money. They're mostly doing it because it's a filler until they have their own children. I know that sounds like a blasphemous thing to say, but it's really very true. We all spend our time talking about ourselves and plans besides teaching, rather than our students or teaching itself. And despite the fact that I'm getting my masters in NYC, most of us are going to teach in a suburb rather than deal with the disadvantaged, supremely behind students of this city. That would be real ambition, if we really cared about education.

I don't mean to be a downer. This doesn't mean these people won't be great, nice teachers who make an impact in some way. But it's not because they're trying to make an impact so much as that they're nice people and will fulfill their obligations as teachers.

Romantic Comedee said...

Education has to be one of the most difficult, inspiring, rewarding careers. Hats off to you!

prashant said...

Teachers deserve so much more than they get credit for. The have such a huge influence on our lives.

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Seattle Kim D said...

I totally agree, very well said. I'm sorry to hear about your teacher's passing, but I'm sure it was very comforting for her family to hear what an impact she made in your life. :)

Elle said...

I love the inspiration behind this post! It took me a long time to realize I needed to pursue teaching as well, and it was also after years of trying to go against the very path. At the end of the day, though, I recalled all of the positive teacher influences I had in my life and realized that it's the only way I know to be passionate about a career as well as have an influence within my job. Great message!

Lady Calluna said...

A man named Taylor Mali has a piece similar to this (but far more aggressive - maybe more like the convo with your friend) called "What Teachers Make." Definitely worth a listen for anyone who has been called under fire for their choice of profession.

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