I taught in public schools for 28 years. I meant to teach for at least 30 years, but the stress was getting to be too much. It was slowly killing me. When I found out I could retire without a penalty after 28 years, it was a relief. Thankfully I heard God telling me that I could finally put down the “chalk.”
It’s funny, though. I went to college not to get a teaching certification. I started college intending to become a certified public accountant. Then my life took a drastic turn just as I finished my freshman year of college and came home for the summer. My sister was finishing 2nd grade, and I went on the end of the year picnic with her class. That was the day God told me to get my degree in elementary education. I knew it as sure as if the angel Gabriel had appeared to me and told me straight out. The road was not going to be easy for me.
The course work was not a problem for me. I made good grades. However, one of my elementary education professors told me that I would not make a good teacher. What?!! I had to keep on because God had told me to become a teacher. I graduated 3 years later with a degree in elementary education and a minor in history. I was certified to teach grades 1 through 8.
I applied to different school districts armed with a recommendation from my supervising teacher. I was turned down because of my lack of experience. I kept thinking to myself, “If you will give me a job, I will get experience.” I’m also sure that part of the problem was that I didn’t interview very well. I just wasn’t good at tooting my own horn. I needed a job so I was hired at an accounting firm (ironic, huh?) as a computer operator. They were starting to computerize their billing. I entered a lot of data and tried to compile it. I know I’m dating myself, but this was in the early days of the computers. That was a very tough year as I struggled to work with a program that didn’t work very well.
The following year, a small school district in east Texas contacted me in September. They needed a special education teacher in the junior high school. So, I was hired on an emergency certification and required to register for classes to earn my special education certification. The 8th grade history teacher left after the Christmas holidays, and I was then moved to that position. My teaching career had begun.
The school did not have any air conditioning. I remember days of the wind blowing so much dust into the windows that we could barely breathe. On those days, I moved my class to another location. There was also a certain 8th grade English teacher who didn’t feel I was qualified to teach junior high. My older daughter was born at the end of my 2nd year at this school. I was out for about 4 weeks and returned for the last work day of the year. I’m guessing that my sub was certified to teach 8th grade history and a friend of the English teacher. I’m not sure what was said behind my back to the principal but he put a lot of pressure on me to quit even though I had received good evaluations. He kept telling me that teachers with new babies didn’t want to work, etc. I resigned, and needed a new job.
That summer was very trying. My husband had finished his degree and didn’t know where to go next. We had to move out of married student housing and ended up in the filthiest mobile home I had ever seen. It had no air conditioning and no stove. We cooked in a microwave, a hot pot, and an electric skillet. We were able to get a couple of window units to keep cool. However, when the weather began to cool off we found out that there was also not any heat. On top of all that, I was trying to find a new job and we didn’t have a phone for a couple of weeks. I remember putting my daughter in the car and going down the road to use a pay phone. We finally moved out of that mobile home in December. The weekend we moved out, the water froze in the toilet.
I got a job at a smaller district than the first one. I was hired to teach Chapter 1 (Title 1) reading at the elementary school. I estimated that about 90 percent of the students were on free/reduced lunch. I’ll never forget the principal sitting in the hallway next to the vending machines with her cigar box of change so the students could buy from the vending machines. They may not have had the money to pay for the school lunch, but they had a dollar every day for the vending machines. I was shocked at the students who would go through the lunch line, pick up a lunch tray, toss the food into the trash, and head out to the playground with their sodas and chips from the machine. I’m sure that school lunch lacked a lot in nutrition, but I’m also sure it was likely the most nutritious food they were given all day.
After 1 1/2 years of teaching reading, I was moved into a 2nd grade classsroom. I don’t think the parents liked me very well because I had such high expectations of my students. So, at the beginning of my 5th year of teaching, the principal moved me to a 5th grade classroom. However, my husband was offered a job in Fort Worth, and we moved. It was back to hunting for a job. This time, I was offered a 5th grade job at a suburban district. It took about an hour for me to drive to work. My class was made up of students moved from the other overcrowded 5th grade classes.
At the end of my 5th year of teaching, I was pregnant with my younger daughter. The school district didn’t want to rehire me for an additional year. So they set about finding ways to give me a bad evaluation. The principal even had the school superintendent come in to evaluate me. They put things like “doesn’t change bulletin boards often enough” on my evaluation. Without a job again I filed for unemployment and had to go on job interviews, but being obviously pregnant I was not offered any teaching jobs. I did not work the following school year.
I seriously questioned my abilities as a teacher. But what else could I do? God wanted me to teach. I had to continue. After a year off, I was offered a job at a school where I taught for 23 years. (It was also the first air conditioned school I worked at.) I still struggled through the years. I never felt that I had a natural talent for teaching. I knew, though, that God wanted me there, and He blessed.
So, when God calls, I have to obey.