12th grade English and journalism teacher
Millbrook High School
In my early teaching days, I sometimes thought of my work as temporary. I imagined other pursuits: toiling in a cubicle following an internship; flirting with fame as a radio personality; raking in quick cash as a bartender; or enjoying the solitude of full-time writing. But during a state sorority dinner honoring my mother, my temporary career became permanent.
Being a rock ‘n’ roll fan, I assumed the evening’s entertainment would be pretty dry stuff. So I was surprised by my own giddy anticipation after a madrigal choir from a nearby high school was introduced. As the students sang, I watched the director lead the obviously confident, talented teenagers. In a flash, a single thought became clear: I love this age group.
By 16, most kids have developed competence in at least one area and have the energy and desire to fling themselves at their newly realized abilities in very public ways. Being their teacher means regulary engaging with soon-to-be adults just as their awareness of who they might become emerges.
What a high school student will risk at the urging of a skilled adult guide sometimes leaves me breathless. They publish their deepest thoughts, sing and dance for strangers, and throw their bodies around on a playing field without fear.
I knew that night, as the choir captivated the audience, that teaching would be my primary occupation. I knew that I always wanted to be part of building students’ self-confidence, skills, and joy in their accomplishments.
That’s my career confession: I love high school students. Sometimes they reward me later in life—by sharing experiences from their own careers, inviting me to their weddings, dropping by with their children. Rarely do they disappoint. But whatever the outcome, I know I have been fortunate to be their teacher.
A version of this article appeared in the May 01, 2007 edition of Teacher as Take This Job and Love It—High School