In between speaking engagements or during the interim of writing projects, I picked up side jobs to keep me financially ahead instead of becoming creatively stifled due to trying to maintain or “stay afloat”. After I wrote my play, “Hope’s Return”, I was introduced to the Atlanta theatre world and re-connected with previous theatre buddies. With this, I was invited on several occasions to apply to teaching positions in the theatre capacity.
After years of executive retail store management, I had NO interest in working with a theatre company and devoting my nights and weekends. And after experience with non-profit organizations, I had NO interest in working for a community/neighborhood theatre and contributing countless loads of money to guarantee a successful and professional looking production. Now, I have done both of these positions before and at that time in my life they were incredibly rewarding and I thoroughly enjoyed them. However, that time has come and gone. I have both of those t-shirts folded somewhere in my closet.
A few years ago, I began substitute teaching for public schools. I quickly learned, after several assignments, I was great with pre-k to 4th grade. I didn’t have the language or patience for any grade above 4th grade. I joyfully worked a full school year as a sub, even so that towards the end of the year, I was requested by teachers and principals more than I had to seek assignments. The following school year came and the only thing I wanted to change was to be stable as a long term substitute with two or three schools. I saw a posting for a long term substitute for a school that had three campuses. I thought that this would surely keep me busy and it is exactly what I had prayed for. I applied and got the position.
I started my six week assignment for a 4th grade English Language Arts (ELA) teacher going on maternity leave. I loved the environment of teachers I was around everyday! And as luck would have it, a fellow 4th grade ELA teacher had resigned and would be leaving around the same time my assignment would be over. Administration asked me if I was interested in becoming part of the team as a full-time ELA teacher, I accepted.
So there I was, I had entered a new career (outside of my artistry), for the 3rd time. A job that concluded between 3:30 and 4pm and was conveniently close to my home. And the best part, I was able to impose the magnitude of words in the young minds of brown kids 5 days of week. I was able to share my passion of sentence structure and reading on some impressionable minds. What I had never taken into account were the behavioral curves and obstacles that reared its’ ugly head every day.
I’m sure there has been research that I am just not privy to that tallies the components that prohibit productive learning spaces. In concluding my first year out of teaching, I simply say, “SOMETHING HAS TO BE IN THE WATER! SOMETHING HAS TO BE IN THE FOOD THEY’RE EATING! SOMETHING HAS TO BE ENCRYPTED IN THE MUSIC THEY LISTEN TO OR TELEVISION THEY WATCH!” And the same determinent agent, effects the parents. It puts blinders on their eyes, it distracts them from the actual physical breath of their child. There has to be a disconnect that permits parents to believe that their child’s insolent behavior changes to some angelic-like deity once they enter the door of the school. To say the least, there were days I was absolutely appalled, I mean unfathomably harrowed, by some of the students bold interactions with teachers, administration and with one another.
Now let me be fair, there were far more better days than bad but when it was bad… IT WAS BAD. But I guess not bad enough for me not to sign up for another year. I was offered another contract to join the teaching staff as a 3rd grade ELA teacher and I signed on. My gut is telling the long term results will forge past the immediate disdain I experience from students that don’t have the tools to peacefully assimilate everything going on in their lives. After all, I am dealing with 10 and 11 year olds.
Let this be the beginning of stories I share on my latest career move. The beginning of possible stories to come and the beginning of amazing educational paths for the young people I have the fortune to impact with my passion of words.