I respond to those calls all the time. Sometimes, I even respond to “Ms. Uhhh…” and “Yo,” but normally? Normally the kids know my name.
And it’s a bit surreal for me. I never anticipated being called Ms. or Mme. anything by anyone other than overly polite customer service folks.
Because I never thought that I’d be teacher.
Teaching wasn’t a calling for me. If anything, it was the complete opposite: I spent years of my life refusing to become a teacher.
But when my sister was making sure that her courses met the pre-requisites for UBC’s Faculty of Education, I was balancing a second year university course load with driving between my home in Vancouver and a park in Surrey. I went three or four times a week. To coach a community cheerleading team. Completely volunteer. Still convinced that I was going to become a lawyer.
She asked if I’d considered going into teaching. I laughed. I’d been thrilled when high school ended. The thought of going back was just absurd.
Then, the next year, when my sister was tutoring kids to complete the required volunteer hours for admittance to the B.Ed program, I coached cheerleading again. In Surrey. When I lived in Vancouver. That summer, I worked as a day camp counselor at a camp with actual educational goals beyond capturing a flag.
She asked, again, if I was thinking about becoming a teacher. I rolled my eyes. Me as a teacher? Yeah right. I mean, don’t you have to own sweater sets and button down shirts for that kind of thing? There was no way.
When my sister started her Bachelor of Education, I stopped coaching. It was my fourth year of university. I was going to focus on school – even though I no longer wanted to be a lawyer. But I got bored. I started volunteering with at-risk youth in East Van. I took them on excursions, helped with homework club, chaperoned dances, did fundraising – whatever was needed.
And my sister asked me why I was doing it. I said that it was fun. She asked if I was sure that I wasn’t trying to get my volunteer hours so I could apply to Education. I probably didn’t say anything very nice in response. Because, no. I had absolutely no intention of becoming a teacher.
So I started working in offices. I had to stop volunteering in East Van because the youth programs started after school, and I couldn’t make it there while working business hours. For a while, I just worked.
But I found a solution! I became a Big Sister. It was volunteering with more flexibility. My little sister was in grade 10, though. Our match only lasted for a year before her life picked up speed and she didn’t have time for me anymore.
And, this time, my sister didn’t ask me about becoming a teacher.
I went back to spending my life as a desk jockey. But I got bored. Again.
This was a different kind of boredom than when I was in university, though. It was boredom mixed with fear and a pit of dread. Work wasn’t a temporary stopover like university was. This was life. Day in and day out. After five years’ of office work, my path was clear: I was in for a lifetime of drudgery and monotony. And that wasn’t how I wanted to live. I needed variety. Excitement. Unpredictability.
So, as was my habit, I started looking for volunteer opportunities. I searched for youth organizations that could use my help. And there were many. But I couldn’t volunteer with any of them; all of the programs started before my work ended.
And then, sitting in my cubicle, staring at all the postings for groups who needed volunteers, knowing that behind each posting was a group of kids that I’d never be able to get to know, I was gutted.
I’d never get to meet these kids. I’d never get to motivate them to do good things in life. I’d never get to call them on their antics and see them make better choices the next time. I wouldn’t get to know them, to pinpoint that thing that makes them special – and make sure that they know they have it.
Because I was working, I couldn’t work with kids. And I wanted to work with kids because I was working.
I was trying to work with kids because it made me happy. Sitting at a desk, doing the same thing every day, wasn’t cutting it. I was looking for a way to essentially work a second job because my daily existence was sucking the joy out of my life – the joy that I had always found in working with youth. And that’s when something in me finally switched.
That’s when I picked up the phone and chewed some crow. I swallowed years of arguments, gulped down my stubbornness, and finally said “Hey, sis. Do you really think I could be a teacher?”
And, thankfully, she did.