Thursday, August 23, 2012

Show Me What I'm Looking For.

            “I bet you could fit into this locker,” my eight year old self said to my younger sister. “Don’t worry, I have my combination here, I’ll let you back out!” As luck would have it, the locker that was assigned to me for my third grade year was at the end of the hallway one floor directly above my mother’s new classroom, so it was a short run down to her to explain in a panic how I had locked Chassey into my new locker and couldn’t get her out. My mom had taught before I was born but this was the first time in my memory that she was going to be a teacher and so, the beginning of my own journey.
Being the middle child of two teachers who had both just taken jobs in USD 494 meant that I spent a lot of my free time running up and down the hallways of the elementary and high school, terrorizing janitors and pestering my parents coworkers. I was never shy or timid as a child and any friend, acquaintance, or friendly stranger of my parents became my immediate friend. My parents never bothered giving me the speech about not speaking to strangers for many reasons, but mainly because they were confident that anyone who decided to kidnap me would bring me back within the same day, tired of being hassled. I was loved as a child, and yet while I knew that I was loved I still never really fit into my role in my family. In my mind I was always at least ten years older than I really was and knew way more than my little kid britches could hold. I loved to sing and dance, loudly, for anyone that would watch and as an eight year old I wanted to be a high school cheerleader more than anything else. I knew that I was different than most people, because I always felt so much older than anyone else my age, but for the most part I was a happy kid. My third grade teacher was Ms. Kalinoski and on the evenings when my mom had too many papers to grade my sister and I would go over to Ms. K’s house and hang out with her. Eventually she started letting me help her with her grading. I graded so many papers and it didn’t matter to me at all that these were the papers of my peers, or that I now knew sensitive information about them; I could have cared less about the grades of my peers, but I so enjoyed using that red pen to notate an error or to draw a smiley face at the top of the page.
My parents got divorced a few years after my third grade year; I honestly could not tell you when exactly, as it just wasn’t an important event in my life. At the end of my seventh grade year my mom and I decided that I would attend a private Christian school in our town. I had just gone through cheer tryouts and made it for the second year in a row but I was miserable in school; it was hard to be a true trouble-maker when your mom was on the other end of the building that connected the high school to the elementary and always just one e-mail away. With a sad heart I explained why I had chosen to enroll in another school and handed back my uniform.
The public school in Syracuse, KS at that time was a 1A school and the private school that had just reopened after over 10 years was even smaller. First through twelfth grades were all in the same room and there was approximately 25 of us in all. I had gone to church with some of the other kids for years and a few others had gone to public school with me, so it was not a scary transition but a welcome one, and my best friend was there too. I was twelve and Maggie was sixteen and she was one of the most confident, laid back, grown up sixteen year olds that I had ever known. A lot of the confidence that I have in myself today is due to the friendship with Maggie that we still maintain today. I completed two years at Syracuse Christian Academy before my mom remarried and we moved to Udall, a small town that none of us had ever heard before and didn’t sound too promising. The two years in private school had allowed me to surpass all of the students my age and I spent the last three years of high school struggling to even find anything to do. After a blow out between the principal and I where he suggested that maybe I drop out of school my mom once again stepped in to save the day. They agreed that I would be allowed to spend the mornings in the elementary with her and her classroom, tutoring children to read and acting as an aide for my mom that ran errands or graded papers. Despite the fact that my mom and I had stopped being really close years before because of my attitude towards adult instruction I had still spent every summer helping prepare her classroom for a new group of students and spent a lot of my lunch breaks in her room surfing the internet on her computers, so it was an agreeable suggestion to me that I spend my mornings with her. The first time that I helped a girl learn to read changed my life; not to say that I suddenly started being any less stubborn and troublesome, but I knew then that I had to finish high school so that I could go on and do something great with my life, and become a teacher. Starting my junior year of high school I started enrolling in college classes at the community college a few towns away and by the end of my senior year I had almost finished my freshman year of college.
Despite the fact that I had found my calling in education, college became a struggle for me just as high school had. I didn’t want to continue with classes because I was so bored and if I had to hear, “because that’s how it is,” one more time when I asked my adviser why I had to take so many lame classes just to be a teacher, I was going to scream. My supportive mom agreed that maybe it was best that I took a few years off from school to get my life figured out and so I immediately withdrew from my classes and moved out of the dorms into an apartment by myself. Maybe I didn’t want to teach after all? I started working in a hotel and I loved the business aspect of it all, I loved the guests that came from all over to attend business in Wichita and I started dreaming of going back to school for business administration instead of education. After a few months of living in Winfield, Kansas, I moved on to bigger and better things by getting an apartment in Wichita. I started a job working at GMAC Financial and found out that they offered to pay for higher education, as long as I was willing to go into business. I toyed with the idea for awhile, fascinated by all the challenges that would be offered to me if I did something new and exciting. I enrolled back into college but didn’t declare any major, I just took some classes. I had finally grown up enough to realize that even if I hated it with all of my might; I still had to take college algebra. First though, I had to take an entrance class, because it had been years since I had even looked at a calculator and knew that I wouldn’t be able to pass algebra without a precursor first. My Introduction to College Algebra class once again opened my eyes to the beauty of learning. I realized that all that we were doing was learning different methods to solve the same problem and that by doing so the professor was giving everyone a chance to solve the problem in their own way; it was genius. I declared myself an education major once more.
I could not now look at my life and my future and see myself anywhere except in a classroom. My earliest memories of life and learning started in that hallway when I closed my sister inside of that locker and I want my last memories to be in a similar hallway, doing what I do best.