Guest Post by Eric Rumsey: A Wanna-Be Teacher Bubbles From The Back-Burner

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.

Photo by Eric Rumsey: "Bridge To a Dream"

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.

20 responses to “Guest Post by Eric Rumsey: A Wanna-Be Teacher Bubbles From The Back-Burner

  1. So Dad’s an “at risk” guy ? That’s important. Broward county pink slipped 1,400 teachers yesterday. Miami Dade will cut a few hundred more in the next few days. Teachers are buying paper towels, toilet paper and art supplies with their own money. “At Risk” is one of the programs that will be cut. Yesterday, a guest on MSNBC reported that the drop-out rate in the US is 7,000 kids A DAY !!! That figure is astonishing.

    Miami is already third world for lack of trainable people in the public and private sector so less than qualified makes up the work force.

    I sure hope Dad keeps his job. He is needed or our whole nation is doomed.

    The high school in which I taught was over 60% at risk.

    I hope you do become a sculptor of minds. You may find, however, that their ain’t much clay out there and even less marble.

    • My dad isn’t in danger. Our town has realized that his classroom – and his skills – are a necessity. Because of him, in part, our town has almost always had a lower than average unemployment rate, dropout rate, etc.

  2. ~~” They loved it. She hated it. Looking back, I don’t give a damn what she thought.”
    I love your thought process. I’d never write if I wanted to please everybody, ya know?
    You must be a SUPURB English teacher. What kind of books does your class read?
    xx xx

  3. Thanks for the opportunity to write for you Renee! Thanks for the edits. I think the crap I had sent to you has been polished quite nicely.

  4. I hope you get to realize your dream, Eric! I know what it feels like to be “trapped” in a job you hate…

    Only you can make this happen…good luck!

    Wendy

    • Thank you so much!

      I’m still working on it. I think in a few years I’ll be able to head back to school for my certificate. Then watch out world. I’ll be the one filling kids heads!

  5. I can so feel your desire to teach as it has been mine for years as well. I took another path…business and ended up in management for 10 years. The cards just directed me into that path at the time. After a while, I wasn’t happy and always wished I had taught. Like you, to get my fix, I did some training as well but it didn’t satisfy my need.

    It was when the company I worked for shut our center down and laid off 120 of us, that I decided my time is NOW! I packed my bags and moved to South Korea to teach English for a year and LOVED IT! Now back in the states, and at the ripe young age of 39, I am working on my teaching credential. Too old to change careers or too young not to? I am absolutely excited and can’t wait to get my own classroom. I say GO FOR IT! What are you waiting for?

    • Thanks! I’m not sure what I’m waiting for. I am looking into the state’s emergency certification process. If I can jump on that, I’ll go for it.

  6. Sorry to be blunt and practical but the main reason that peope who think they want to be teachers don’t get there is MONEY. There isn’t any in teaching. And it’s getting worse. I live in Palm Beach County, FL. The same issues affecting Broward are affecting teachers here. Very sad.

    • Bah. I don’t make anything as a municipal employee, so being a teacher is no different. Actually I’d end up making more as a teacher than I do now. Living in CT where we pay our teachers a decent wage is a good thing.

  7. The thing is, you already ARE a teacher. Of your soccer team. Of your children. Of yourself.

    Remember this and be patient.

    I wanted to be an English professor/researcher/writer of obtuse literary criticism. (Who doesn’t?) But after receiving my BA in English, I was hired on an emergency credential at my old high school (this was back in the early 90’s when we got a surge of money for class-size reduction in English…)

    I couldn’t pass up the instant paycheck and the chance for a “real job” – plus my parents said no more $$$$ for school. Pay your own way.

    Yeah.

    Turns out I loved loved loved teaching. Who wants to deal with college students who already love English? I had the chance to inspire kids who may or may not love language…

    Still. My desire to write did not fade (much like your dream of teaching.)

    When I turned 40, after teaching for 17 years, I took a leave of absence to write.

    Obviously, I was lucky to have a husband who can support our family financially. But my point is: patience.

    Keep looking forward. Life is a long process and opportunities will present themselves over the decades.

    Good luck to you, no matter what happens.
    And keep on teaching, too.

  8. Yes, it is a tough time to enter or, for that matter, to leave teaching. It’s true that the kids’ heads certainly don’t seem to be made of sculpting material. There is still little money to be made in teaching (but more to make than cafeteria ladies, teaching assistants, or most kids’ parents…) and even fewer perks these days, as teachers take on more of the costs for health care, pension, professional development, and classroom supplies–pens, pencils, glue, tissues, hand sanitizer, etc..

    I taught music, bought my own musical instruments, curricular materials, copy paper, and hats and mittens for my students. I even caught hell for not lending my personal songbooks to general education teachers for a holiday sing-along. And, we’re not even going to get into a discussion of the value of special area subjects in a child’s education!! Or who gets pointed at when principals ask what area can be cut?!

    All this said, about three or more years into my delayed teaching career–I was in the latter half of my forties, I realized that I was born to be a teacher. I loved singing the same song over and over and over again while tying hundreds of shoes, so my young students could safely play singing games or pretend to be hunting the wild animals of Andes, accompanied by four or five of us on the gathering drum. We delighted in conversations in duple and triple meters–nonsense syllables of uninterpretable questions and answers. We gloried in waiting for “sol” to move to “do”, so our beanbags could splat to the floor. And learning symbolic notation–pictures of what we sang–thrilled the children as much as when they saw their “sight words” on my board as we went through the class agenda.

    Eric, I took a chance. I went for music at a time (when hasn’t there been one?) when teaching jobs were hard to come by and music jobs unheard of. When I decided to go for it, I finished my student teaching in December and was employed in February! You will know when the time is right. You will run out of options. You will say, who cares? You won’t listen to the nay-sayers. You will jump in with both feet, and you will have the swim of your life!!

    • Thanks! I know it’s going to be a ton of work to get me there, but it’ll be worth it. I don’t know if any of the local schools have openings, but for the moment it doesn’t matter. If it’s meant to be it’ll happen.

  9. I hope you get to teach. Our community has great teachers, but some of the administrators could remember what it was like to be a parent or a teacher. I wish we could find administrators who love teaching as much as you do!

  10. Thank you all for the kind words and comments! I really do hope that one day I do get to teach. I’m planning on sticking with coaching for now. It’s a decent outlet for my “fix”. Funding may be a problem, but we’ll work it out.

  11. Get the tunnel vision and don’t ever stop. Nice post. Glad to read ya.

  12. Eric, I just retired from teaching ESL in Central NY, and it was a wonderful career. I also had stops and starts in my life that, looking back, were painful at the time but things all worked out. My advice to you (unsolicited but given from the heart) is to not put things on hold–take a first, definite step toward your goal and you will reach it. Don’t listen to negative comments about job cuts, salary, etc. You will be in front of your own class and it won’t matter.
    Get goin’, man!

  13. This is dad writing. This is also the first time I have every posted on a blog.

    To put this in perspective, I do own a cell phone but it’s the very old style and it sits in my car uncharged. If I want to use it I have to plug it in.

    Yes, I’m a little behind the times.

    Ermine – most of my family lives in Connecticut but we have a vacation home in Speculator, NY and I grew up in Albany and New Hartford (just south of Utica) NY. Where were you in central NY?

    A little more perspective. Eric and his wife are wonderful parents. He was also a wonderful son – except when he and his brother set fire to the scrub grass behind our house. No real damage done — thankfully. Actually, as I think about it, there were a few other “interesting” bone-headed moves, but overall, a great kid.

    He has a good job and is well respected there but I fully understand his desire to change careers. He would make an excellent teacher. In truth, he would be the perfect fit to take over my alternative education program when I retire. He’s grown up hearing all about the victories and the tribulations. His personality would be a perfect fit. I believe this is an area he should explore. With that in mind, I’ll also work see what strings I can pull.

    • Dear Rick:

      You sure have raised one fabulous son, and it is obvious that the old adage is true; apples don’t fall from pear trees. Eric is so gracious here in the bloggoshere. I have no doubt that he would make a wonderful teacher, just as I have no doubt that he is good at what he does now.

      I feel honored to be the first blog upon which you bestowed your first post.

      I imagine with all of your experience, you have some incredible stories. I’m always interested in who/what exactly inspired you to become a teacher – so if you feel like writing a little something about that, it would be wonderful to hear your words.😉

      My email is in under the “Contact Me” tab.

      You know, just in case you ever feel like writing a little something.

  14. Whoa boy. I’ve created a monster.

    Thanks for everything dad.

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