When I first graduated from college (10 years after I started) at Sam Houston State University, I wanted to find a job at a gym or someplace fitness related. My degree was in Kinesiology with a minor in health. Actually, my degree had an emphasis in coaching, but I did not want to teach at the time. Lesson plans and teenage hormones just did not sound appealing to me. My goal was to one day run a gym.
I was managing the weight room at Sam Houston during my last semester of college. It was a lot of fun being in that atmosphere. Helping young people learn how to work in a gym, giving weightlifting advice, maintaining equipment, and just the overall gym attitude really appealed to me. Working in the wellness industry was something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life.
Well, All that changed about a month before graduation. I got a call, and when I answered the phone it was Abby crying on the other end…
“What’s wrong, Babe?”
I went to Abby’s work to talk about our new situation. She was working part time at Planned Parenthood and had access to pretty accurate pregnancy tests. There was no mistaking that she was with child. At first we panicked, because this was not part of the plan. We had only been married a few months, Abby was in her first year of graduate school, and I was just about to graduate and start looking for a job. There was no time for a baby. But, as always, panic turned to joy when realized we were pretty awesome and could totally handle the situation. The only thing now is that I needed to find a decent job ASAP.
I started looking for jobs right away. We found that the job market in Huntsville, TX just wasn’t good for what I was looking for. We decided to move back to College Station so I could find a better job in the field I wanted to be in. After looking around, it turned out the best I could find was a minimum wage job working 70 hours a week and an opportunity to move up. That wasn’t going to work with a new baby and a wife in school.
As fate would have it, Abby found a job opening for me at College Station Consolidated High School as a teaching assistant in the Special Education department. I figured, why not? I went to the interview and they told me about two openings they had. One was in the special needs class. I would be hanging out with the kids with MR, autism, Down syndrome, or whatever. The other job was in their adaptive behavior program. There I would be with kids that had behavioral, emotional, and learning issues. Those students were labeled as emotionally disturbed. They went on to talk about how both jobs were stressful, but that the emotionally disturbed kids needed a teacher who had a “special gift.” I was told that some of them were bi-polar, violent, some had gotten physical with teachers, some had been to jail, and some other less than appealing things. I had never been around these kinds of kids before and it sounded pretty stressful. Although, I had spent a small amount of time with some kids with special needs. I had a semester with them in a Special Ed PE class I was taking. So with that, I told them I wanted to be in the special needs room. But…
They offered me the other job.
With great hesitation, I took a low paying job working with potentially violent teenagers. But hey, at least I had good benefits. Abby and I also saw this as an opportunity to see if I liked teaching. If I liked it, I could get into a teaching certification program and make an okay living as a teacher.
My first year of teaching had its ups and downs to say the least. For the most part I enjoyed it. It took me a couple weeks to get my bearings. At first I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of “personality” the kids brought to the table. But after a while, I got to know some of them better and got to know the other teachers. I felt pretty good about what I was doing. These kids needed someone to help them. Lord knows most of their parents were actively uninvolved, and other teachers didn’t want them around. I knew that this job was going to be a huge challenge, but I also knew that I was pretty good with these kids and maybe I could help them a little.
I was only an assistant. I made less than half what a certified teacher made. That was fine because I also had a job teaching weight lifting at the junior college in town. From 8-3:30 my day was spent helping crazy kids get through a normal day of school. After that, I helped college kids learn how to bench-press and do squats. I loved the weight lifting job, but there was no real future in it. After a while, Abby and I decided the best thing would be to get into a certification program so I could become a teacher.
I was able to pass the program and get certified. My new certification allowed me to teach special education classes at any grade level. Along with that, I had enough hours in Health and Kinesiology to teach those classes as well. It just so happened that right after I got certified there was a perfect job opening at Bryan High School right down the road. They needed some one to work in the adaptive behavior unit to teach the students health and take them out for PE. The rest of the time, I would just help out the other adaptive behavior teachers. Needless to say, I took the job.
After a while there was an unexpected addition to my job. They needed someone to start taking the special needs students out for PE. By this time I was used to the emotionally disturbed students. I was good a handling them and their issues. I was actually more nervous about how to act around a student with Down Syndrome than I was around the teens that wanted to curse me and beat me up. Come to find out, this was one of the greatest blessings I could have ever gotten. I loved them!! Why? Because all they know is love. They were so excited to be around anyone that would talk to them. They were the best part of my day. I could take them anywhere and they didn’t care as long as it was fun. Some of them couldn’t walk or talk, but all of them could show joy. Ever since then I have had a soft spot for people with mental and physical handicaps. I learned so much from them, and I often miss being around them.
So, from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday, I was living a pretty unique life. I was able to get to know young people that most of society would be quick to cast aside. I had all different types of personalities. It would take about two or three blog posts just to list all the different quirks I had to deal with. But, for the most part, I was happy to do it. I came out of that job with some amazing stories and experiences that I will never forget.
There it is. A quick run down of how I became a teacher. I have so many stories to tell. I worked as a teacher for 5 years. I can honestly say that 3 ½ of those years were a blast. The rest was an absolute nightmare. I don’t regret any of it though, and I can’t wait to share how the whole experience shaped my life.