I have always loved school and learning. If I could have figure out a way to monetize going to college, I would still be a student today. My brothers like to steal a joke from the movie Tommy Boy and remind me that many people go to college for seven years, they are just called doctors. I entered KU with the dream of becoming a genetic counselor, inspiration courtesy of my high school teacher, Mr. Barnes. After trudging my through a painfully boring population biology class and working my butt of for a B in organic chemistry, I decided that maybe I would focus on the second half of the title genetic counselor and decided to major in psychology. This I loved. And despite my shift in focus, I still could have graduated after 3 years. I had come inf with 26 hours of college credit thanks to College Now courses in high school through JOCO JUCO. Panicked at the thought of graduating and no longer sure of what I wanted to be when I grew up, I dropped a course so I couldn't graduate and decided to give myself another year to figure things out. The original plan was to pick up a second degree in sociology that year, but after realizing that it still wasn't what I wanted to do, I finally decided that I wanted to be a history/social studies teacher. Unfortunately for me, just to apply to the school of education meant there were several pre-requisites that I need to take first. I spend my "senior" year taking Art History 101, Poly Sci 101 etc. etc. I was accepted into the school of ed and began my teaching coursework. Of course, KU has a five year program, so I wasn't getting out of school anytime soon. I decided to walk the hill in 2000 t claim my BA in psychology and then walked again the next year after receiving my BS in middle/secondary social studies education. The year after that, I began my masters coursework and did two stints student teaching.
I loved student teaching, especially with my eighth graders at Hocker Grove in Shawnee Mission. They had so much energy, I was exhausted at the end of the day, but also very fulfilled. There were staff meetings every Tuesday morning before school started. One Tuesday I was sitting in the meeting and then was told I had a phone call in the office. It was my cooperating teacher calling t tell me she would be out sick that day. As we were on the phone, she said a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center. It was 9/11 and I was on my own. Initially, the school did not want us to talk to the kids about what was going on, but eventually that changed. I sat glued to the TV in the teacher's lounge over my plan time. How could I make these kid's understand the importance of what was happening without simultaneously scarring them. Somehow I made it through the day. My cooperating teacher and I then set out to spend the next month teaching the students about what led to this horrible tragedy. I recorded CNN on VHS cassettes and I kept all of my Time and Newsweek magazines to use in my future classes.
My next student teaching experience was very different. It was at Blue Valley West the very first year it opened. The technology that these kids had access to blew my mind. I was excited to teach high school, I couldn’t wait to have intellectual conversation with my students about historical events. I was lucky as my cooperating teacher also taught a psychology class in addition to history. The students were so different than the little balls of energy I had been with earlier in the year. I learned what a tough class could do to suck the wind out of your sails. I was lucky that the class I had directly after them could rejuvenate me.
All of this schooling, all of this work, and I don't use any of it. Well, not any of it, but you get what I mean. Through a random series of events, I end up as a buyer, not a teacher. But having been through a student teaching experience and being married to a teacher, I have empathy for our teachers and what they have been through over the past few years. My dream of two married teachers living a comfortable life no longer exists. I can't afford to make that career shift. We need to pay our teachers and staff more. We need to place more value in the work that they do and the impact they have.