I began my years of teaching in the early 80s. My first classroom was full of 35 fifth graders and was not air conditioned. (Oh, that I was making that up. But I'm not.) There were seven huge bulletin boards in that room that had to be kept decorated and were almost the death of me. (Along with the heat.) I was at the end of a hall with two other new teachers and most of the other (much) older teachers would not talk to us, let alone tell us how to fill up all that bulletin board space. The next year, all three of us transferred to another campus in the same district. Angels sang because we had air conditioning and carpet on the floors. A slight drawback was our shared space was that failed experiment called "open area". The only thing that separated our three classrooms were six foot high rolling chalkboards. The fourth area was for a special ed class. And did I mention we had 38 students each at some points during the year? Listen, if you can love teaching in those conditions, you were made to be a teacher.
The next school year brought a move to a smaller district. The only opening was first grade and I wasn't sure it would be a fit for me. I loved fifth graders! I had 16 six-year olds and spent much of the first week counting to make sure everyone was there. I was teaching 50% less students and getting paid the same? Double score, because I found a perfect fit in the early primary grades.
Babies followed and I stayed home with them. I heard there was a kindergarten opening when my only little toddlers were in half day preschool. I went to talk to my former principal to see if I could sell him on a half day kindergarten class. My chutzpah was rewarded with the offer of an on-the-spot created half day gifted and talented teaching position. One of my favorite years EVER.
Another move brought me into private Christian schools, where I helped administrate (and teach) a split level class of kindergartners and first graders (including my daughter). A magical year. Followed by two years in kindergarten that included my son. Perfection.
Shifts in life brought me through about 10 more years in private schools and five more in public schools. This is the first year I have not had a classroom to set up, and I am missing that a little bit. I love being a principal, but I miss putting together a room that will nurture and challenge little ones who will call it home for a school year.
Come Wednesday, the school year will begin and children will fill the halls. Bet you can smell the crayons and lunch boxes just imagining it. I know I can.
There cannot be another job that is as challenging/satisfying as teaching and shaping children's lives. 2011-2012 school year: You may be the best one yet. Can't wait.