No moment. Let’s just put that out there. I’ve been a teacher all my life.
My mom has old math books with my lesson plans tucked in the pages. Lots of work, even more homework, harsh consequences. My 10-year old teacher self ran a tight ship.
My students? Usually stuffed animals. My younger sister wouldn’t tolerate me and my bossy teacher self for long.
Mrs. Fitzgerald, my 3rd grade teacher, was my model. I don’t recall a lot of work or huge amounts of homework or an especially harsh woman (my translation of teaching was a bit off). She ran centers during reading time. I fondly remember the games we played, the special time we got to read with Mrs. Fitzgerald at the big U-shaped table and her aid, Mrs. Castenada, working with kids all over the room.
I was a talker. I think I would have sat alone had our room had more space. As it was, I kept my table partner completely distracted from our lessons. We played scientist with the pencil holder at our table (contact paper around a soup can). Two pencils allowed us to reach into our bubbling beaker to extract a very toxic eraser.
I loved school. I loved playing school. I was practicing for my teaching career from the start.
In fourth grade, our teacher, Mrs. Dabney, was very ill. We had a series of substitutes who didn’t stay long. Mr. Sylvestor was my favorite sub that year. He was a tall, African American teacher. That was new. And he spoke to us as if he knew us from day 1. As I reflect, he was probably newly credentialed. He had an easy way about him. Easier than the other subs whose nerves jumped off them and made the whole class jumpy. Mr. Sylvestor wore a suit to school. Also new. His smile was big and infectious. I don’t think I had a lot of teachers who smiled. Why would a smile otherwise stick out? When he smiled at you, you couldn’t help smile back and feel happy to be at school.
So when was my defining moment? When did I decide to become a teacher? Hard to say. Let’s give 3rd grade the credit. Mrs. Fitzgerald set the path and Mr. Sylvestor sealed the deal. I wonder if I’ve payed that forward with any of my students?