They say that the first year of teaching will probably be the hardest year of your life. This fall I will be teaching for the first time as a Middle School Social Studies teacher at Crossroads Christian Academy (CCA) in Panama City, Panama. I am starting this blog as a way for me to reflect on my journey of teaching during my first year. I hope that this will be helpful for educators and administrators who are seeking to help new teachers to flourish. I also hope that other preservice or new teachers will benefit from knowing that they are not alone!
I would like to dedicate the rest of this blog post to share a bit of my journey to this point. Specifically I want to respond to the question:
“Why did I become a teacher?”
Both of my parents are teachers, so I always said that I never wanted to be a teacher! When I entered college at Trinity International University in 2005 I chose to study Christian Ministries with an emphasis in Counseling and Social Services because I thought I wanted to be a counselor. After graduating in three years my desire to travel was much greater than my desire to go to graduate school for Counseling/Psychology! I heard about an opportunity to teach English in Kazakhstan (KZ) and even though I knew virtually nothing about this former Soviet Republic I moved to Almaty, Kazakhstan a few months later!
I taught English for one year at the ICC Plus language school. It was this experience that made me realize that I actually liked teaching and that I was pretty good at it. Looking back, I see that it was this experience that helped me realize how much teaching really fit with my gifts and my passion for helping others to grow and develop! When I returned to the USA after my time in KZ I started substitute teaching in the same school district where I went to high school and where my dad has been teaching for 15 years. I can’t say that my experience as a substitute teacher made me desperate to become a teacher (I had some trying experiences) but it did give me a taste of what being a teacher in a traditional setting is actually like.
After getting married in 2010 I moved to Iowa with my wife in order to work at Inste Bible College, a small distance education school based in Ankeny, Iowa. I started out as an administrative assistant, but I was quickly promoted to Director of Communications and Online Services. After earning my Master of Arts in Global Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary I was promoted to Academic Dean. I greatly enjoyed my experiences working in higher education at Inste Bible College, but I have also been longing to be in a role that is more relational and more directly related to students.
Even though I wanted to teach, because I do not have a teaching certificate I knew that it would be virtually impossible for me to get a job teaching. I began to look into obtaining my Masters in Education in order to get certified to teach, but this would most likely mean doing two more years of graduate school and six months of student teaching after that. I applied for a job at CCA in Panama City, Panama even though I knew that they were only able to hire certified teachers. The school contacted me to see what sort of position I would be looking for and what sort of position I would be qualified for. In the course of my interaction with CCA I discovered that they are a member of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). I also discovered that ACSI offers certification to teachers who have a minimum of a Bachelors Degree and enough undergraduate credits in the area in which they want to be certified to teach. I realized that this would allow me to teach in the area of Social Studies at CCA!
Today I read this post by Elena Aguilar on the Edutopia blog. The post was about how teachers can cultivate emotional resilience to avoid burnout in teaching. One of the things she recommends is for teachers to identify their purpose and mission as an educator. She says it’s important to write it out and share it with others. After some reflection, here is what I came up with for myself:
My purpose as an educator is to never stop learning how to help students learn better so that they can grow towards maturity in all areas of their lives.
I would like to revisit my purpose as an educator after my first year of teaching to see if it has changed at all! If you are a teacher/educator and you have read this far, please share your purpose as an educator below in the comment section!