I First Felt Like an Educator When . . .

I First Felt Like an Educator When . . .When did you first feel like a “real” educator? Members of our Free Spirit Advisory Board open up about their experiences, and you might be surprised by some of their answers.

I was going to present a guidance lesson in a first-grade classroom. Prior to the lesson, I went to the classroom while the class was at lunch in order to get familiar with the VCR/DVD player. Everything worked perfectly! I had visuals prepared and was ready to go. Twenty minutes later, the class returned from lunch and greeted me warmly. I opened my lesson and was about to begin the video—only it failed to work! The classroom teacher wasn’t able to make it play either, and tech support was occupied in a different classroom. In the blink of an eye, I pulled out a picture book that supported our lesson objective to read aloud and continued without incident.

Improvising is something teachers do every day. Only many of us don’t know we’re doing it because we do it so smoothly.
—Meg, school social worker

Toward the end of my undergrad work, I told my professor that I wished I could be a professional learner. She told me that she had been the same way and that it was certainly possible: “We teach,” she said. As a school counselor, I get to learn something new every day by being open to the lessons of my teachers, administrators, and (most importantly) students. I must stay informed and updated on important events, engaging practices, and evolving needs. And if I ever doubt my profession or my place in the world, I only have to be reminded why I do it by witnessing a student’s personal or academic breakthrough. When students realize that they held the key the entire time and I only had to suggest to them that they held it, nothing is more affirming.
—Stephanie, school counselor

I felt like a “real” educator my very first day as a school counselor. I walked into my office area and saw two students crying. The girl was sixteen, the boy eighteen, and they had just found out that the girl was pregnant with his baby and that the baby had Down syndrome.
—Lisa, middle school counselor

I felt like a “real” educator after fifteen years of teaching in public schools. I noticed three main points at that time:

  1. Inexperienced teachers asked me for advice on lesson planning, classroom management, and school procedures.
  2. Colleagues began asking me what I thought about current trends in education and how we would be affected by them in the future.
  3. When talking to noneducators, I found that people were clueless about all the acronyms used in education, like SLO, IEP, PLC, IDEA, and so on.

—Gina, music teacher

When I was finishing up my internship year, I was asked to fill in for a school counselor who was going on maternity leave. My excitement began when the principal gave me a tour of the school and handed me the keys to the guidance office. I shadowed the school counselor for a week before she left and got to meet many of the students and teachers I would be working with. My first day on my own I felt like a “real” educator. I turned on the lights in the office, fired up the ancient desktop computer, and printed out the daily schedule. When I went to the various classrooms to pick up students for individual or group counseling, I was surprised that they treated me like a real teacher, calling me by my formal name and following my directions. Even though I was in my early twenties then and probably looked like any other adult to the students, I felt like I had grown into adulthood that day and felt a deep sense of responsibility for the children I would serve. I felt humbled by the blind confidence that the students bestowed upon me.
—Jenny, school psychologist/school counselor

The first time I felt like a “real” educator, I was about two years into my job with a GEAR UP program. A student asked me a question about college requirements, and I rattled off the answer like it was nothing. The student thanked me and went about her assignment while I stood in shock, thinking, “How did I know that?” It was the first time I didn’t have to search my brain for an answer. While being a real educator is all about knowing how to find answers, those moments where you already know the answer feel like great accomplishments.
—Sarah, middle school counselor

Immediately on the very first day of my initial teaching job, I felt like a “real” educator. My degrees were strictly in autism spectrum disorders and applied behavior analysis. All of my experience up until that point was in environments where there was a vast number of team members for each student. Then I was hired by a small school district with a limited number of educators. As I walked into the office, the secretaries pointed out my mailbox, which stated “Resource Room.” I questioned if I would share a mailbox with all of the other resource room teachers, assuming that I would be working on a team. Their response was, “Just you—you are the resource room,” which ended up being a huge position with almost twenty students. I swallowed my fear, smiled, and said, “Okay!” I was a teacher.
—Rebecca, MSED, BCBA

I felt like a “real” educator for the first time when I could see children achieving skills and helping others in our classroom achieve skills. There is no greater feeling than knowing you taught children that skill, and now they are helping others learn as well.
—Jeni, director of Kendal Early Learning Center

I first felt like a “real” educator when I received a letter from a student who was in prison. His letter detailed all that I had done for him as a teacher and mentor. He wanted me to know that if it were not for me, he never would have finished school. I had him in the eighth grade, and he graduated four years later. He stated that even though he was in prison, he was taking college classes, not GED classes like the other prisoners. After reading his letter, I realized that I’d done it: I’d gotten through to someone and made a difference.
—Brad, counselor

The Free Spirit Advisory Board of Educators is a group of professionals who provide feedback that helps make Free Spirit books be even more beneficial for kids, teens, and the adults who care about them. Interested in becoming a member? Recruitment is ongoing! For more information about the benefits and responsibilities of membership, download our Free Spirit Advisory Board flyer and our Free Spirit Advisory Board application.

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Suggested Resources
Everything a New Elementary School Teacher REALLY Needs to Know (But Didn’t Learn in College)

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