Finally Telling the Story: or How I Became a Teacher

Two decades ago I quit my job, threw my family into chaos, and began the journey to my purpose in life. I imagine there are others out there who aren’t happy in their jobs and know that they are supposed to be doing something else and are just afraid to do it. Maybe my story will help them.

This story has its roots in my childhood when my much older sister ignited a fire for history in me and then a horrible 5th grade teacher almost extinguished it. That’s right, I was ultimately inspired by my worst teacher ever, rather than one of the many wonderful teachers I’ve had.

Fast forward to my 20s. My wife and I had two sons under 10 who really didn’t do well in a Sunday evening church service, but there weren’t any children’s programs for them. So, we created one. We had a blast with our Sunday evening class until, for reasons never really explained to me, the pastor of the church decided he wanted those kids in the main service and ended the class.

Loosing that class left a void in my soul. It created a longing that I didn’t even realize at the time. However, combined with that was my brother-in-law. He was a teacher and would tell me all the time I should go back to school and become a teacher. He said it was the best job in the world. I already had a degree, so I would only need the teaching part of it. Also, add in my boss at the time. His wife was a substitute teacher and when he and I talked about this little tickle in the back of my brain, he always supported my pursuing it.

So, the perfect storm. I had a desire and people around me telling me to go for it. However, my wife is risk-averse. She likes stability. She likes to know where the money is coming from for mortages, food, and you know, necessities. Her biggest fear was that I would do it and then hate it. My biggest fear was being a 30+-year-old student teacher.We talked a bit about. I knew she was afraid of it. But something was pushing me. Looking back, I know it was God because of the way it all unfolded.

Notice the order here. I went into work and told John I was quitting to go back to school for my teaching degree. He said it was about time. THEN, I went home and told Amy what I had done. I contacted the Ohio University branch in Lancaster and the ball was rolling. Amy went back to work full-time. I started looking for 3rd shift jobs to support us while I went to school during the day.

This was all in late 1999. I found some work shuffling boxes around at a big shipping company. Didn’t exactly pay the bills. Then Amy said there was an announcement at her job (she worked for a BIG insurance company) that they were looking for extra 3rd shift security officers because of Y2K. Applied, hired, full-time, quickly promoted, making what I was making before I quit my sales job. Crazy.

Oh, did I mention they also paid 100% for school? I know, right? And did I mention that two years after I was done they stopped paying for classes that weren’t related to insurance or business?

So, for two years I worked third shift in locked buildings often with no one but me around. Studied all night, wrote lesson plans, watched the monitors, did my tours, and crushed it gradewise.

I couldn’t make our bedroom dark enough to sleep during the day so I made a bed in our walk-in closet. That was pretty much life. School during the day, coach my son’s baseball team in the evening, sleep in the closet whenever I had a couple hours, and then work 11p-7a. Repeat. God gave me strength to make it through.

Did I mention that I happened to start classes with a bunch of people my age on second careers? So, other 30-something student teachers. What a group of support we were for each other.

I happened to be placed in Pickerington at a new school for one of my field placements. I instantly wanted to work there. I stayed with the same teacher for my student teaching. I interviewed with the district. I really wanted to work there. To be safe, I applied to other districts. I had an offer from a district on the other side of Columbus. Great district, great school, great job. I called my HR contact at Pickerington. She said things were in motion, but there was no job offer yet. She couldn’t promise me anything. The other district wanted an answer.

So, I turned them down and trusted that Pickerington was going to come through. Finally, she called. “Kyle, I have a job for you.”

“I’ll take it.”

“I haven’t even told you which job yet.”

“I don’t care. I’ll take it.”

She told me it was in the school where I had done my student teaching and the principal was expecting me. I immediately went to see him and finally asked where I was being placed. Not only was I in the same school where I student taught, but I was in the SAME ROOM where I student taught. He had my name already on the door.

God had a plan and two decades after this journey started I’m still at the same school, loving my job, living the dream.

My wife deserves more credit than I could adequately give her in a blog. She sacrificed for me to follow this dream. She supported me unfailingly, even though the risk was enourmous.

Don’t Tell Them Your Plans

There is a saying that goes, “Don’t tell them your plans.  Show them your results.”  No idea who said it or where it came from.  In general, I agree, but probably only because I’m an ask-forgiveness-not-permission kind of guy. This summer, however, I realized that it is a load of (insert your colloquial noun here). In this quick post, I’m going to tell you my plans and tell you why.

Throughout my teaching career, I have had some innovative, even risky, ideas to radically change my classroom.  Sometimes I’ll jump into those things with gusto, and then come up against opposition or realize just how much work it is going to take.  At that point, it’s really easy to abandon the idea because no one really knew I was doing it anyway.

I’ve latched onto three things this summer that have changed this for me; podcasts, Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters, and Feedback that Moves Writers Forward.

Here are my plans:

  1. Have my advanced ELA class podcast all year.
  2. Each ELA student will have a notebook and will actively track standards mastery and feedback.
  3. Begin a robotics club at our middle school.
  4. Radically change the way I approach reading education.

I promised this was a quick post, so I won’t go into all the details yet.  However, feel free to follow along as I undergo this transformation.

I’m going to do it.  I’m going to blog about it (maybe podcast). Hold me accountable.  Do not let me get up against difficulty with this and take an easy way out.