Today’s guest post is by Eric Rumsey from the blog I Swear We’re Not Crazy. Some of you may know of him as Bob the Builder. After all, that’s his handle. But Eric has been hiding his true identity. Like any superhero who works all day cleverly disguised as the Average Joe, Eric toils away secretly waiting for the time when his superpowers can emerge. You see, Eric wants to be a teacher. But, somehow, life got in the away of his dreams. In my mind, Eric’s dream has simply been deferred. I like to think, one day, he is going to get that classroom. Lord knows, we need more teachers who sound like he does. And with a family chock-full of educators, he definitely knows, it ain’t all wine and roses.
For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a teacher. I still do. I think, at first, it was because I would have summers off. More recently I’ve realized it’s because I have a need to fill young people’s heads with knowledge. Here I sit, in my tiny, cave-like office, contemplating just where it is that I went wrong and why I’m not a teacher. There were many factors involved both in my wanting to be a teacher and the reality of me, at this moment in my life, not being a teacher.
The high school years: Where I learned to love teaching.
I had just come from a small clique-y school where I was terrorized for 2.5 years in junior high. I had the chance to start fresh. My freshman year was fairly typical. Nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary, no new ideas for what I wanted to be when I grew up. My sophomore year, two things changed: One was the second worst English teacher I’ve ever had. The other was the best math teacher I have ever had.
My English teacher gave me a C for a children’s story project we had to write and illustrate. At the time, I was babysitting my neighbor’s twins, so I wrote the story about them. They loved it. She hated it. Looking back, I don’t give a damn what she thought.
My math teacher was the best. She got through the haze and the bull to my core. She made me work harder than I ever have before. If her hair hadn’t already been grey, it would have been after a year of dealing with me and my crap. She finally got so sick of me not showing my work that she had me come up in front of the whole class. She put this huge equation on the board and said to me, “If you can do that in you head, you don’t have to show your work for the rest of the year.” Minutes later, she said: “You son of a bitch. I can’t believe you got it right”.
That was the first time I really connected with a teacher.
My senior year, I applied to colleges and universities with excellent teaching programs. It’s the only thing I wanted to do. I had no aspirations to be rich, powerful, or famous. I wanted to teach, dammit!
The college years. Or where things went wrong.
Suddenly I was a second year student, married, with kid #1 on the way, and I was going to change the world by teaching Environmental Science. A few years later, I was eligible to graduate with my Earth Science degree, yet I still had not finished my teaching classes. I now had two kids, a wife who was bartending, working until 3AM to support us while I attended school and worked part-time at various programs. I thought I could just graduate, put off getting my teaching certificate for a year or so, and work to buy us a house.
Working to Live.
Seven years and two jobs later, I’m still dreaming of teaching. I’ve worked as a surveyor and a town planner. Seven years that I’ve put my desire to be a teacher on the back burner. Seven years that I’ve watched my brother, his wife, and my parents grow closer as they spend their summers together at the lake, while I’ve worked my tail off. Seven years of trying to pound planning information into my clients’ heads. Sometimes I pretend I’m teaching them; however, it’s not the same.
Who says teaching isn’t a drug?
To get my “fix,” I’ve been coaching soccer. I have watched my soccer team grow from young kids who had almost no idea which end of a round ball to kick, to brilliant, smart, calculating pre-teens who kick butt and take names. Through them, I get the satisfaction of seeing their eyes light up with excitement as the concepts I have been coaching them finally all come together and they score those winning goals.
I also have two wonderful kids who a voracious learners. It is because of their desire to learn that we have taken some wonderful trips over the years, all in an effort to encourage their desire to learn.
Inspiration and reflection.
So what is it that has kept a simmering pot on the back burner these last seven years? Is it my dad – who is a teacher of kids at risk, those in danger of dropping out – and the brilliant things he’s accomplished? Is it my kids and their desire to learn? Is it my family, most of whom are teachers, or work in schools in some capacity? Is it my soccer team that actually wants to learn what it is that I can teach them? Is it the excellent teachers I’ve had over the years? Is it the crappy teachers I’ve had who make me pledge to NEVER be like them?
I’d like to think it’s all these things and so much more. I am confident that, at some point, I will go back to school and complete my certification courses, leave this tiny, cave-like office, and become a sculptor of minds. I have this feeling that I’ve left something undone. Like I’m unfinished, sitting here wishing I could be in a classroom full of kids making them love to learn like I do.