Friday, April 22, 2011

I Never Wanted to Be a Teacher (Part One)

Family and friends who know how much I enjoyed the fifteen years I taught school will be surprised to hear that, but it is true. As best I can figure, it had something to do with my childhood.

I didn’t grow up going to school. I got educated—with a classical education, at that, but I didn’t go to school. I learned all about the paintings, sculpture, and architecture of the Renaissance, the mythology of the Greeks and Romans, and the history of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians, but it didn’t happen in a traditional classroom. Today it would be called “home schooling,” but in the 1940s it was just Calvert School in our home at a faraway outpost in a French colony in central Africa. I only had one year in a traditional classroom until I went to high school.

While I see little reason for that to make me want to be a teacher, neither do I see in it any reason for it to make me sure I didn’t want to be a teacher. But that was how I felt. All through Wheaton College, I stayed away from classes about teaching—with one exception. I did take Christian Education of Children and Christian Education of Adolescence because, I reasoned, I expected to have children of my own some day. They were both three-hour classes. After college, when I had a friend training to be a kindergarten teacher, I groaned at the idea. She could have it!

Then the ironies began. I married a man who decided to go to Bible school, so it fell to me to support the family. But with a college diploma that included a Bible major and an informal minor in languages (I also knew a fair measure of French), I didn’t really have any marketable skills. But I needed a job. I was about to take one as a cashier at a supermarket (I can’t even imagine that now) when a job possibility dropped into my lap.

We were at a car dealership in Grand Rapids, Michigan, trying to trade in my new husband’s lovely Buick for a more appropriate car for student life when he mentioned that his wife was looking for a job. The dealer perked up. Did I have a teachers’ certificate? No (of course not). Did I have a college degree? Well, yes, I did. But, hey, that was all I would need. The dealer knew of a school very much in need of—a second grade teacher! According to Michigan law, if one had a college degree and took one night class a semester, one could get a provisional certificate.

Given all the things I do remember from that far back, I’m surprised I don’t remember what I thought or felt at that point, but I accepted the job, took the night classes, and taught the school year of 1958-1959. We moved back to Illinois for what turned out to be one very interesting year (including our first baby), but that has nothing to do with this story here.

A few years later when Fred finished school, we settled in our first house in Carol Stream, Illinois, on the north side of Wheaton. We got involved in a small, just-starting church. There were only a few people and many opportunities to get involved. Our first Christmas there, a new friend and I were asked to come up with a Christmas program for the kids, and later I agreed to provide a program for school-age children during Wednesday evening prayer meeting. Hmmm. This wasn’t so bad. Meanwhile, I had two more children of my own.

By 1967, with a preschooler and two in school as well as working with children’s activities at church, I had become accustomed to being around children. Oh! Could that have been why I was so sure I didn’t want to teach? Growing up, I had never been around children (except once a year at conference). Even my teen years were spent in a boarding school where staff had only two small children. Was that why I didn’t know I would like working with them? Was there a possibility I would like to be a school teacher after all . . .?

To Be Continued


Linda said...

How interesting, Esther!

I'm not sure why, but never occurred to me that you didn't have a traditional education. Only one year in a traditional classroom! Fascinating!

I look forward to reading your next "chapter." Keep up the good work.


Esther said...

There is probably so much we don't know about each other, Linda :-)!