Welcome to the inaugural class of '29. We've selected 29 graduating college seniors, entering the "real" world in 2018, to write about the state of their lives. What are their hopes, dreams, fears, stressors, failures, and successes as they leave school behind? We will be releasing new entries on a daily basis. If you would like yours to be considered, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For me, college was just the beginning of the stressful "real world." I'm going into what’s arguably the world's most personal job: teaching. The lessons teachers craft shape future generations. We also take a lot of stress home with us, especially as classes get bigger, budgets get smaller and work stacks pile higher. I’ve accepted that my professional life will be an emotional rollercoaster that doesn’t end after retirement. My desire to arm our children with knowledge and confidence to stand up in this world will never go away.
In many ways, my college experience prepared me for the challenges ahead. My university’s school of education has a great reputation. I had an amazing advisor who changed the way I thought about teachers, never forgetting to remind us that we were meant to be there. I met awesome fellow teachers-to-be who felt the same way. We left college confident that with the theory, research, and guidance we gained, we could collectively change the world.
We also left college with this feeling that we're fighting against the world. When terrifying shootings happen in our schools, we don't feel safe. When 27 kids pile into one classroom — using the windowsill as a desk because there’s not enough seats — we feel like we’re being set up to fail. When we spend $100 of our own money at Walmart on pencils, markers and Cheerios for hungry kids because the district will not allow us a bigger budget, we feel depleted. When our country is so divided ethically, morally, and politically, we feel like we have to somehow find the space to teach kids how to be decent people, even though we don't even have enough time for the actual "material.” These days, a teacher is a counselor, referee, cheerleader, a supplier. Sometimes, we even have to be the nurse. The idea of juggling all those roles is already exhausting. I'm afraid that as the years go by, my heart will eventually break and I won't be able to face 25 bright, beautiful kids every morning anymore.
Yet, I have this beautiful sense of trust in the process. No one becomes a good teacher overnight. No student becomes your A+ superstar in a day, or even a month. In my own final weeks as a student teacher I felt like I hadn’t even cracked the shell of my potential, but that’s okay! Teaching is a job where you have to give your all to people every day. As a result, you are going to learn every single day and grow with every bell that rings.
I’ll be 22 when I have my first full time position. Some of my students might only be four years younger than me. I worry that they will think I am trying to engage in power struggles with them or that I won’t understand them as they’re coming of age. It’s hard to be so young and be responsible for so many kids, but I know that my peers and I are perfect mentors and supporters for them. We have an understanding of the world that’s similar to theirs. What’s more, as a young teacher, I feel lucky that I will have so much time to grow in my job and form relationships that will extend beyond the classroom.
And I know I will. I was born to be a teacher. When I was 10 years old, I took Bible study with a friend. One Sunday morning, our teacher asked us "Why do you think we're making our own rules?" I raised my hand. "So that we have no excuse to not follow them." Her eyes sparkled: "This girl is going to be a teacher one day." The thought had never crossed my little mind. A teacher? At the time, it seemed like babysitting to me. Now, I get teary eyes every time I think about that interaction. What if she never said that to me? It was the first time a teacher said something that eventually shaped my life. Teacher sometimes don’t know that the small things they do can change who you are forever.
And so, when students give me insightful answers to things or come up with a new way of thinking, I know what my response will be. No matter how tired, worn-down, or underpaid I am, I’ll find a way to muster a twinkle in my eye and say, "You're going to be a teacher one day." Maybe it will change the course of their life just like it changed mine.
Gabriella Corado is a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor’s in English Education. After graduation, she will study abroad in London while getting her Master’s Degree in Education. She hopes to land her dream job next year in Washington, DC as a high school English teacher.