Written by Cortlyn Young, a second-year Social Studies Teacher at Ashley High School
Throughout my first two years of teaching, I have laughed, cried, found my first grey hair, pulled some hair out, and have quite literally bitten my tongue. Every day that I walk into school, I know it will be a new adventure with my students. That adventure could be amazing, or it could be one that I never wish to repeat. Despite this, I can’t imagine doing anything else as a career. What other job could I have fun every single day?! I can’t think of one. However, I’m not one of those teachers who dreamt of becoming a teacher since they were young. In fact, as a high school student, I swore I would NEVER be a teacher. It wasn’t until I had an amazing, inspiring, dedicated, caring, positive, patient, and entertaining teacher myself that I thought, “wow, I’d love to impact a kid like that one day.” I am a native of Wilmington and attended Laney High School. My sophomore and senior years, I took AP History courses with Mr. Holden. Before taking his classes, I was not a huge fan of history by any means, but I wanted to get as many AP credits as I could. Little did I know that by the time I left Mr. Holden’s class and Laney, I would love history and want to become a high school Social Studies teacher myself…and 4 years later, I was. While taking his class, it was evident that Mr. Holden was a great teacher. It seemed as though he was always excited to be teaching us, and he always had a way of making us laugh and learn simultaneously. To say he met his calling in life would be an understatement. However, as a teacher myself now, when I look back at how Mr. Holden conducted himself and how he made us as students feel, I realize that he was even better than we knew at the time. I realize now that he wasn’t just coming into work and talking about historical events each day; he was completing the multitude of tasks that all teachers complete on a daily basis while being one of the most positive teachers (and individuals) that I have run into throughout my whole life.
Teaching is exhausting. When teachers say, “there’s no tired like teacher tired,” they aren’t kidding! Between teaching, meetings, pep talks, counseling sessions, planning, and grading, it seems like there just isn’t enough time in the day to do what you need to do. I learned very quickly that if I was going to be successful at my job, I have to stay positive and make sure that my students know I care about them as well as their knowledge of American history. As a high school teacher, I do have to deal with moody teenagers every once in a while, but I have learned that they need the same nurturing environment as any child, because despite the fact that 95% of them are bigger than me, they are still kids who need to know that there is someone in their life who cares for them. I am aware that I may be the only smiling face that a student sees in a given day, and it’s my job to do just that. Have I failed? Numerous times. But I pray that with every student that passes through my course, I make some sort of an impact on them. There have been multiple days when I have driven home in tears, because of the devastating situations in which some of my students live, or because of the tragic background that they have. This is what drives me to become the best that I can be as a teacher. Of course I want my students to do well in my class and on their final exams; I want my classroom to be orderly and respectful; but most importantly, I want my students to know I love them and want them to be positive contributors to the society in which we live. It’s the little notes, gifts, and comments of appreciation that can really make my day as a teacher. I’ve had days where I have really wanted to throw in the towel because of various frustrations, but without fail, there is always a student who happens to say something that completely changes my outlook on my job as a teacher and can make me feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be. They do these things unknowingly, and they have no idea just how large of an impact that it makes on a teacher.
Challenges will always be present in education. Pay will always seem low, politics will always be present, students will always act up, but receiving a large salary, getting praise, or dealing with perfect students is not why I became a teacher. I became a teacher, because I wanted to positively impact someone’s life, while teaching him or her a little about history… just as it was done for me. I can only hope that throughout my career I am able to do this for at least one person. While being taught how to be a teacher in college, I wasn’t able to comprehend all that teaching really encompassed. It’s hard and exhausting. Nothing can truly prepare you for all of the work and time that you are going to put into your job, but there’s also no preparation for how rewarding you will find your job as a teacher to be. This reward comes from having funny, obnoxious, exhausting, broken, smart, bright, struggling, beautiful messes of students walk into your class and teach you something new every day. I can’t wait to meet all of the brilliant minds that I will encounter throughout my career as a teacher. I’m only two years in and I feel like I’ve been incredibly privileged to know some of the young people that I have met.