I am in my 15th year of teaching special education. It was not my first career path. I started college thinking I was going to be an aeronautical engineer. By the end, I earned a degree in Political Science with a minor in US History and desire to be a history teacher. I went to a credential program and earned a social studies credential. I spent 5 years in the tech industry after becoming disillusioned with student teaching and found what I thought was going to be my career path, purchasing. Then the first dot com bust happened. I needed to pay rent and couldn't find a job. I, by chance, had a valid teaching credential and began the process of becoming a substitute teacher. I could ride it out for a few months. I would find a job by summer.
I was called in the afternoon for a sub job. It would be a two week gig in special education. Evidently, I was not the first call, 2nd, 3rd. No one wanted it. I was nervous about doing it myself. But it was for two weeks and would pay rent. I went in to class the first day and realized I was an idiot for being afraid. My youngest brother was in special ed because he had a reading deficit. I had experience with this situation. I loved the smaller class and the connection it gained. I also had the privilege to go to the VA hospital with the students as they gained work experience in the afternoons. I was hooked on education again but it was special education.
I would have to go to school again. Was I sure this is the path I wanted to take? I had been coaching and had a connection to a school. I got a job as an instructional aide in special education classroom. I would use this to determine if I really wanted to get into the profession. I worked with a wonderful teacher and was hooked. I applied to a credential program and got a job in special education.
It was bliss for the first few years. Then change came hard and fast in terms of laws governing education. But, I made it through. Then came the shifting demands of the profession and the adversarial relationships between parents, government, schools, and teachers. Then came the shifts in school personnel. Then came declining enrollment. Then came changes to job description. It was a roller coaster. I also was dealing with personal issues.
I had two really bad years of teaching. I was going through the motions and not enjoying my job. I did the minimum. I was at my nadir. I knew I needed a change. I quit coaching basketball. I asked to teach freshman again. It worked. I had never been so happy. The freshmen brought such an innocence and eagerness that i could not help but be reinvigorated. We had a blast and stretched them further than they thought they could go. They accepted obstacles as part of the path.
I am feeling good about education and teaching again. I am having fun. My students are having fun. We laugh. We cry. We share difficulties but trust we are in it together.
So why do I teach in light of the difficulties? I teach because I want to see kids taste success. I have had students who have gone on to become lawyers, doctors, management. I have had students who still work at Target and Safeway. But they all contribute to society. I teach because of the connection. I teach because it is ok to cry when things are tough. I teach because I have learned you will hear me now but listen to me later. I teach because I know I make a difference. I had to relearn that lesson. Fortunately, I am in education and get lessons too!