I have been a teacher for over 15 years. I did not dream of being a teacher. I actually struggled in my academics at school; I thrived socially. I was in a slew of clubs, but my favorite club in high school was my government club that allowed us to act as members of the United Nations one semester and the other as the state Legislature the other. I had no idea what career I wanted when I entered The University of Tennessee, so I fumbled around for a couple of years changing my major every semester. Some of my ideas were politics, psychology, business, and child-life specialist (my sorority, Phi Mu, philanthropy was the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital). I didn’t become interested in becoming a teacher until some of my sorority sisters, and I participated in a class at the UTK in which the students in the class were in charge of running a week-long camp for kids with multiple disabilities. It was called Camp Koinonia. Everyone in the class was either in charge of one camper or activity the kids would be able to experience. In one of the first classes they surveyed the students for any useful skills, and if you did, then you had to be in charge of that activity. I owned Quarter horses growing up, so I was in charge of the horses. Those of us at the activities were informed of kids who tended to wonder. One of them was a kid who had Autism. He didn’t speak or communicate much. Multiple times a day he would run away from his counselor and always ended up hiding behind a tree near the horse riding ring. I helped him move from behind the tree and onto a horse by the end of the week. I was a junior in college and changed my major to special education when I returned to school.
Every semester we spent time in a classroom assisting a teacher. One day I walked into a classroom and “my kid” from camp was there. When he saw me he walked up and grabbed my hand and had me sit down next to him. He had a communication board and began talking to me. His teacher started to tear up. She had never seen him grab someone’s hand. I explained our connection, but she was still shocked. She said that when he came into her class that the first couple of months he would just curl up in a ball and sit under a table. I spent so much time in different classes that I really felt I understood my future. I loved my education program at UTK. I continued at UTK to acquire my Masters in Special Education. While receiving my Masters at UTK in 2000, I was also working in an Open Arms Care home for people with severe disabilities. Since I had the day-to-day experience with kids with severe disabilities, I looked into other settings for my student teaching. The program at UTK helps you experience the gamut of special education classrooms you will be certified for; my favorite experience was sixth-grade inclusion. I had never thought of inclusion too much since I was so focused on the intensive small group setting of helping kids with severe disabilities. My mentor teacher showed me the whole new world of inclusion, and I fell for it hook, line and sinker. When I began looking for jobs, all I wanted was sixth-grade inclusion.
I found a small southern district that would let me have a couple of inclusion classes and teach small group reading and math. I have been in this district since I signed my first contract with them. The principal who hired me asked me in my interview what I wanted my teaching day to look like in 5 years. I told her I would like to have all-inclusive classes. I spent over ten years in special education teaching every subject in small group and co-taught settings. I eventually realized that I loved teaching science the most. Thankfully the system I am in accommodated that desire and I became the special education science teacher for small group and co-taught classes. My district was very supportive of their teachers and provided a plethora of continuing education. I became certified to teach students who were gifted and English Language Learners. I appreciate that the district helped us expand our teaching options and knowledge. I became certified in middle grades general education reading, science and social studies. For a while, I was the special education teacher in all co-taught classes, and sometimes I worked with general education teachers who allowed me to collaborate with them and other times I didn’t. When a general education science teacher position opened at my school, and I asked my principal if I could switch. I wanted an opportunity to be a teacher leader, and that wasn’t going to happen in the special education department. I told him I wanted to influence more students, be a teacher leader, and see how different teaching general education really was from special education. He said that I was a great special education teacher and he really needed me to stay in my role as a special education teacher. After three years of the having a general education science teacher leave and my persistence of wanting to switch, I was finally switched to teaching general education. I have loved being a general education science teacher and having a role as a team leader!
Like I said, I was never a “good student” until I began my education classes. Now that I had found my niche of knowledge I yearned to soak up, I started finding myself contemplating grad school. After looking at the options, Specialist or Doctorate, I realized that if I was going to go back to school it would be for a Doctorate. A specialist seemed like another Master’s degree and would take almost as long as the classes for a Doctorate. Next decision was deciding if I would acquire a Ph.D. or EdD. The programs I found for the Ph.D. were full-time and would, therefore, require me leaving my teaching job. My gracious parents said I could move home and live with them if I wanted to pursue the Ph.D. route, but I really wanted to do this on my own, so Ed.D. was the only option. I also didn’t have a desire to teach only at the collegial level or spend my time researching and publishing. As I perused through the Ed.D. concentrations at different schools, I felt that curriculum and instruction were my passions. I always enjoyed making lesson plans and curriculum writing. Now it was time for choosing a school. I had a desire of expanding my knowledge of our nations educational system so I looked at schools in the north and west. After three years of talking myself in and out of grad school, I found Northeastern’s Doctoral program, applied and was accepted.
While in school at Northeastern I realized how much of an educational bubble I had placed myself in and I was elated that it had popped. The year I began the concentration I had chosen, Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning merged with Leadership. I was not excited about being required to take extra classes, but it turns out that I loved my classes, even the ones on leadership. When we were given a list of books to pick from to read I would bookmark them all in my Amazon account and read more than required. Now my goal is that I will eventually read them all. I had heard that once you begin researching and writing your dissertation that you will get tired of it; that did not happen for me. My issue was that I had a hard time not reading a new journal article when I found it. I became a seeker of knowledge.
Prior to grad school, I didn’t read journals, books, articles, or anything about the history of education or what was occurring in education research. I was a teacher. I researched teaching strategies, lessons, activities, and content, but everything I read about pertained to the lessons in my classroom. I was more about the what in my classroom. Now I am a scholarly practitioner. I want to know why, who, how, and when in education, not just my classroom. I am very interested in educational policy. The why behind the rules and red tape in education is intriguing. I miss writing and having conversations about educational practices, policies, and trends, so I decided to blog is a good beginning.
Welcome to my miscellaneous meandering musings.