Hello, readers! As we take this MLK jr. Day to reflect on a brilliant and inspiring mind that helped change the course of our country, we think of other people working to shape the future. They’re out there, and today, I have Megan, a high school teacher who finds great purpose and fulfillment in her profession.
Hi! Thanks for joining us here on Sundry Spotlight! Tell us a little about yourself.
Hello! I’m a high school teacher, a mother to two boys, and a wife of 12 years.
You have a bit of a unique interest. What is it and what can you tell us about it?
I am a high school teacher and I love it. It’s challenging and rewarding. I am famous inside the walls of my school because, as the kids say, “I’m chill” I get to teach the subjects I am passionate about and I really love my students, even the rough-around-the-edges ones. The tough kids challenge me to be more creative and look for different, unique ways to either engage them in the content, or find ways to maintain order.
How long have you been doing it?
As a career teacher, this school year marks the 5th year I have been doing this job.
What led you to start it in the first place?
Well, that’s kind of a long story. When I was a kid I wanted to be a lawyer. So, when I got to college, I started majoring in political science so I could have a good background in conflict resolution and diplomacy. I hated the courses…I then changed my major to History, a subject I was very passionate about and I loved it. When I was a junior in college, I got married. One day, speaking with my husband about school, I said, out loud, “I don’t think I want to be a lawyer.” Instantaneously it felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I thought, I’m not supposed to be a lawyer. So, I thought, what can I do with a History degree? Teaching seemed like a good place to start. I enrolled in an exploratory education course at my university and their advice from day one was to start substitute teaching. They said it was a good idea to even see if you liked teaching first. I started the process and fell in love with teaching. This was where I belonged.
What’s your favorite thing about it?
The interactions with many unique students who are hilarious, the outlet for creativity in my lessons, the impact I can have on a kid and the impact a kid can have on me. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to see a kid struggle so much as a freshman and then to be there to see them mature into someone who knows what they want out of life because they finally got their life together. It’s so inspiring and uplifting to know that I had a part in that metamorphosis.
What sorts of challenges do you face in pursuing this interest?
Well, not that it’s a problem now, but when first applying for jobs and trying to get started, the fact that I am a woman and teach the social sciences, and don’t coach, I had a very difficult time getting a job. It took me 3 years to actually get hired as a full time teacher. I had the qualifications and licenses necessary and I was working as a substitute teacher at the time so I know I had some on-the-job training too. It was just rough going on several interviews knowing I would not likely get the job. I treated each one like interview practice. So, when I finally got offered a job, my literal first words were, “are you serious?”
Now that I am a teacher, other challenges I face are ever-changing teacher expectations from society, low wages, others not respecting my profession (I hear things like, well, you get summers off, or well, you’re just a teacher) I do just as much work as anyone else, and I work a lot during the summer just to get prepared for the next school year, particularly if I add a class to the load I’m already teaching. Governmental policies pose a road-block as well. Sometimes the government does not give us enough funding to do some basic things. For example, we used to have purchasing cards each year in my district but because of funding, a lot of the office supplies and things I need either need to get submitted for approval or I just need to purchase them out of pocket.
A major daily challenge is how to motivate those students who are not really into school. I am constantly asking myself how to motivate those kids…it’s what pushes me to get more creative and design more engaging lessons.
If you could have your ideal setup for doing this, what would that look like?
Realistically, I would love to be able to get raises for doing an amazing job…I’m kind of stuck right now. Because I get paid by the district (a non-profit organization basically), not like most other people do, through for-profit-companies.
If someone wanted to start doing the same thing, what advice would you give them?
I would definitely say, find out what the minimum requirements in your state are to become an emergency substitute and start doing that ASAP. It was what really taught me what it was to be a teacher and I think it really helps people to decide if that is what they really want to do. I loved subbing and I love being a teacher. It is my true passion and calling. I am so glad I started with subbing because it helped me decide which grade-level I wanted to teach full time. I learned that I did not like elementary school and middle school was barely tolerable but I found that high school was where I was the most comfortable and where I fit best.
I would also say, figure out what you love and try to teach that. If you teach something you love, you’ll be happy. I absolutely love history and even though, I teach things that aren’t history per se, I teach sociology and psychology and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT! I never even thought about teaching sociology before but once I got into it, I fell in love and I wouldn’t want to go to a district that didn’t have that option.
Do you see yourself doing this for the foreseeable future?
Yes and no. I see myself putting in at least 5 more years or so but eventually, I would like to get a masters and start working as an adjunct professor at a community college or university and eventually, I want to teach future teachers or start working the professional development circuit.
Where can people find you/your work?