This I Believe

Toni - Rockford, Illinois
Entered on January 16, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
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Learn from your past, teach from your past.

About a year ago, I ran into an old friend from high school. During our conversation I mentioned I was a teacher. I’ll never forget his response; he laughed and said, surprisingly, “Wow! I never would have thought you would be a teacher!” I was a horrible student. I didn’t see the point in an education and hated being in school. By the time I reached high school, I skipped school more than I attended. Why? I don’t know. Back then I could have blamed anyone or anything. My parents were divorced, I never saw my dad. Because my mom moved around a lot, I had attended four different high schools. I had a hard time making friends. All of these seemed like good reasons.

For some reason, I was accepted into a college. There I had my first realization how much I missed in high school. I was so behind everyone. I had a hard time keeping up in classes, I couldn’t do the work. A year later I dropped out. With a similar attitude from high school, I decided I didn’t need college. I worked so many mindless temporary and factory jobs. I think it was when I was working third shift in packaging factory, living paycheck to paycheck, when I realized I couldn’t do this anymore. I wanted more and I would do anything to get me out of the mess I had created.

I went back to school. I started at the local community college taking basic classes to reeducate myself. It was there that I got a job tutoring for an after school program. It was ironic that I was employed to help these kids with study skills. The job turned out to be my epiphany. I loved this job, and I was good at it. In this after school job, I saw little versions of me; kids who struggled academically and have already given up, kids that craved attention. From that point on I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

This is my second year teaching. I teach middle school English. When I tell people what I do, it’s funny to see their shocked and sympathetic responses. I know I have tough kids. I know I have my work cut out for me. Some days I walk into my classroom and I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle. I work hard to help my students. I hate to see one of my students struggle. I always take it personally. I know they are growing up with more distractions than I ever had. I always try to remember the way I was when I was in school. I hear them say and act the way I did when I was their age. I remind them that I was once their age; they smile, shake their head and say; “Man, nothing gets by you!”