My career goal growing up was to be rich! This is why I got my bachelors degree in finance- that’s where I was going to make a LOT of money. When I graduated I had a wonderful corporate job lined up. I worked for a year and was ready to climb that corporate ladder when I realized, I don’t enjoy what I do. With no idea what I did want to do, I signed up for a full-time year-long volunteer program. I was to be a teachers aide in a first grade classroom in an inner city Catholic School. The teacher I was working with was also a volunteer, but a certified teacher- her first year teaching.

We set the room up together and as with every first day of school, met our 36 first graders with a huge smile, not knowing who was more nervous. What happened next that day would become a daily ritual… she left. Left me alone. Left me alone for huge chunks of the day. I barely made it through dismissal that first day before the tears started flowing uncontrollably. There was no stopping them. I was not a teacher. No one is my family is a teacher. I didn’t grow up hearing tales about classroom life from the teachers perspective. I have never been to a single class about teaching. You can’t leave me!

But she did. I have never felt so overwhelmed, so unprepared for anything. I didn’t know how I was going to survive. I cried every morning, every day at lunch, and every evening. It was all too much. Once the initial shock wore off, I realized that if this wasn’t going to be the worst experience for me and the students, I needed to do something. I started talking to every teacher who would talk to me. I asked them what I’m sure felt like a million questions. I went into their classroom and observed when my students went to gym, music, and art. On my days off, I would find other schools that were in session and observe there. As the year went on, I became more confident and the tears came less and less.

On the last day of school, Alex (a boy who was interested in many things, school not really one of them, certainly not the teacher pleaser type) raised his hand, looked at me with tears in his big, brown eyes and a quivering bottom lip and said “I’m gonna to miss you.” And.I.Was.Hooked.

I volunteered one more year and was officially the primary teacher in the classroom. The following year I made it official and went back to school to get my Masters Degree and certification while continuing to teach.

For quite awhile, I was bitter with her for what she did to me, until I realized what a tremendous gift she gave me. She gave me the gift of teaching and the knowledge about how strong I am.

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