When Did You Know?

When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?

I’ve always been jealous of [what seems like] basically everyone’s clear cut path to education.

Example: “My parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and literally every single family member ever since the dawn of time were teachers. It was my destiny.”

Example: “I just knew. Without a doubt. I came out of the womb knowing I was a teacher.”

Me: “I’m tired of chemistry and I have like a week to pick a new major. Kids seemed fun.”

No joke. I felt as if I had no clear-cut talents, interests, or aptitudes for anything specific. Don’t get me wrong, I was always a great student, did well at the majority of subjects [I had typed “all subjects” at first, but then there’s chemistry], but there was nothing that jumped out to me as a passion. Teaching seemed like something I would enjoy, I mean, I had always liked the idea of school. It’s something that would always be necessary in our society and it’s an all-around respectable profession, right?

A friend of mine and I constantly discuss [usually over a glass of chardonnay — we get truly philisophical after the second one] our wholehearted belief in the notion that everything in life happens for a reason. There is a purpose. There is a lesson. There is intention even if it isn’t clear in the moment. Even when nothing makes sense. Steve Jobs summed it up nicely:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

It’s in the occasions when reasons aren’t clear that I find solace in this belief the most.

There’s a reason I failed chemistry.

There’s a reason I blindly chose to enter into a profession I knew virtually nothing about.

I ended up where I was supposed to. Teaching has changed me. It has improved me. I am an inherently better human because of my career.

I’ve learned patience. I’ve learned grace. I’ve learned to be thankful for every opportunity that I could easily access because of my zip code and the color of my skin. I’ve learned to be aware of the implications of and deeply troubled by the sentence I wrote just before this. I’ve learned that not everyone has been as fortunate as me. That the playing field is far from level, but that education can be a powerful equalizer and I can play a crucial role in that.

I could look back and see dots connecting. I could see the reasons why I stay in this profession that I had grown to love deeply. But I still didn’t have that great “when did you know,” story.

I was talking to a friend today about jazz recordings. I had been listening to some old albums [legitimate records on a record player] with my husband and this friend and I were talking about his great jazz collection. As we talked, I was reminded of my own past as a high school musician — winning a few jazz awards, drum major of the high school marching band. I chuckled in that moment as I remembered how my high school band teacher would excuse me from my classes to teach band all day when he had a substitute, that way the classes wouldn’t miss out on a day of rehearsal with a sub who most likely didn’t know how to teach music or conduct.

I loved those days — I felt competent and confident and helpful. I felt needed and relied upon. Feelings that I now have the honor of experiencing every day, as a teacher.

Maybe that’s when I knew.

Drum Major Brooke — circa 2004
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