I’m not proud of this. I have failed as a teacher. I quit my first full-time teaching job at the end of the first week. Almost 25 years later, it still hurts.

On the road

Back in the 1990’s, I had recently married in Maine and was working a retail job selling bird feeders and seed and putting on educational programs in schools. I loved my job. Then, my husband decided to go to seminary. In California.

Hey, we’re a team and let’s make this happen! I found a teaching position, over the phone, in a small Christian school in San Bernardino. I was the high school science and home economics teacher. We had a yard sale, downsized, and fit our worldly possessions into our 1988 Toyota Camry.

Once we hit the Nevada desert, our car overheated, but we turned off the A/C, rolled down the windows, cranked the heat, and sweated all the way to Vegas. Fortunately, California is downhill from there, and into the smog (it was August) and the 112 degree “dry heat” we went. We had arrived at our furnished apartment, in a gated community.

That night, we heard gun fire. Perhaps what I heard about gangs was true.

The New Teacher has arrived!

The next day we found the school, with its barred windows and marginal air conditioning. School was to start in a few days. Time to get ready!

I cleaned up the classroom and started working on goals for the year and lesson plans to get started. I cranked out the work, determined to be prepared for my new students. They were going to get the most creative and engaging teacher they had ever met!

The day had arrived. Boy, were those high schoolers big! And tough-looking with leather and chains. I’m starting to feel a little silly in my jumper. Still, they needed my classes, so here we go!

Reality hits

What do I say? It was a nightmare. They didn’t listen to me. I didn’t have their respect.

I tried to teach about moles in chemistry, but we couldn’t get past the math. I tried to engage them in the politics of weather forecasting, but they just got rowdy. I took them to the lab for chemistry, but they misbehaved and I had to send them all back to the classroom.

Teaching is my gift. I trained hard to be a good teacher. I needed this job to put my husband through graduate school.

It is over

By Friday, I couldn’t get out of bed. I felt like I was down in the bottom of a deep pit. I wrote a resignation letter right in bed and handed it to my husband. I asked him to take it to the school. And I cried.

Back at school on Monday because I was required to give the school a month to find another teacher, I continued to try my best, but my body was shutting down from the stress. I had brain fog as thick as that LA smog and my GI tract set records for motility. The principal, teachers, and students all tried to convince me to stay, but I couldn’t. I was done with teaching.

Within a week, I found a job shelving books at the seminary, which is excellent for anyone wanting a low-stress environment. From there I secured a position at a local church as a secretary and stayed until my husband graduated.

While working at the church, they asked me to substitute teach a Sunday School class. Hesitant, I said I would. The day came, and my symptoms came back in full. Halfway through the class, I had to sit down, because the room began to spin. Would I ever teach again?

Another chance

Fast forward about 15 years. Had kids, divorced, taught part-time at a Christian school, worked as an Ed Tech in a special ed classroom, remarried, and taught as a long-term science teacher sub for a few months. Meanwhile, my boy was struggling in school.

When it became obvious that my kids needed to be homeschooled, I was worried. Did I have what it takes to teach them? What if they didn’t learn anything?

My failure to teach a classroom full of disinterested kids was OKAY! I could file that under “What doesn’t work”. Fortunately, homeschooling is not like a large classroom setting, but more akin to the one-on-one environment of the special education department. Relate to kids one-on-one or two? Yes. I CAN teach.

You CAN teach.

Just as you took care of your babies when they were helpless, you can do an outstanding job of teaching your kids to read, write, and do arithmetic.

No one knows your children better than you. You are the expert and the chief investigator of what makes your kids learn. Success is a moving target, and it seems that failure is a big part of the process for getting there.

homeschool, homeschooling, teacher, teaching, failure, fail

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