Hanne Denney, a 47-year-old “career-changer,” is in her second year as a special education and social studies teacher at Arundel High School in Gambrills, Maryland. Visitors to www.teachermagazine.org can read her ongoing blog, excerpted below, about the challenges and rewards of starting over in teaching.
I began my high school teaching career after 30 years of other jobs. I don’t know as much about teaching high school as those teachers who completed a four-year college program, but I know a whole lot of other stuff.
I know what matters in life. I know that the things I did as a teenager shaped my adult life. I know that what I learned in algebra and world history and music classes helped me in my jobs, and I can tell you how. I’ve had a lot of successes in my life just because I tried to do something. I know that everything I do today affects the rest of my life.
I’m not trying to get approval from the students in my class. Early on, I realized my own children didn’t need more friends—they needed a mother. A mother who was friendly, yes, but who wasn’t afraid to assert authority. I want to be that kind of teacher, too. I am old enough that I know I am not all that cool, and I’m cool with that.
When you’ve lived longer, you have more stories. I tell students about my personal experiences or the experiences of people I know. Even an active, teenager-filled classroom quiets down for a good story. ... If a child wants to hear more stories, they must learn to read, and I’ll help them do that. If a child wants to tell their own story, they must learn to write. I’ll help them do that, too.
I know that my own history and all that I’ve learned have come together to create a good teacher. Everything that happens now is another chapter in my storybook.
To read more or respond, go to Hanne Denney’s blog.
A version of this article appeared in the November 01, 2005 edition of Teacher as Older-and Wiser