The most meaningful realisation I have ever had, was the one that I should become a teacher.
I went through basically all of high school dead-set on becoming a lawyer. I took legal studies in my last two years and joined the school’s mock trial team. I
studied really hard slacked off and hoped that I would still get good grades, so that I could get in to law school. I got in, took my gap year off (to reward myself for all the hard work I didn’t put in in my final year) and then, in 2008, I started a Bachelor of Law/ Bachelor of Communication. I loved it and found it really interesting, albeit quite daunting and challenging at times.
At the end of my second year of law school, I decided that I would take a year off and do a one year course in Christian Ministry and Theology (just letting you know: I am a Christian). The plan was, get an approved one year leave of absence from uni, complete bible college and come back to law school the following year. One year at bible college turned into two (after much anguish about how I would break the news to my parents) and some time during that second year, something changed.
(Note: when someone asks you what you do for a living, and you say “I’m at bible college”, about 50% of the time the reply will be “oh right, so does that mean, like, you’re gonna be a nun… or something?”)
While I was at bible college, I picked up a job at a tutoring centre. I would spend a lot of time doing one-to-one work with children in their first years of primary school, helping them with their reading or mathematics. During my time there, I discovered my love for two things. The first thing was photocopying – especially the feeling of secretly holding up a big stack of still-warm, freshly copied papers against my chest while the boss wasn’t looking I AM NOT WEIRD DON’T TELL ME I AM WEIRD STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT! The second thing, and this profoundly changed me, is that moment when somebody “gets it”. You’ve told them again and again, in many ways, that 1+1=2 or what sound is made when the letters ‘t’ and ‘h’ appear together, and then, just before you grab the nearest pen and stab yourself in the chest, their face lights up, and a slow, uncertain smile creeps across their face. Their eyes twinkle. Their mouth opens, and they repeat back to you what you’ve just said. Skeptical, you test it. You show them a new word, or a new maths problem. They demonstrate that they understand the concept, and if you’re me, you’re almost in tears. Teachers call this the “lightbulb moment”, and realising how much satisfaction I got when somebody understood something I was explaining to them was a real lightbulb moment for me (so much lightbulb inception right there).
Something inside me told me that I could do this for the rest of my life. But part of me felt like I would be letting myself down if I didn’t finish law school. But what I later realised that I wasn’t worried about letting myself down – I was worried about letting other people down. Like my parents. Not that they are the type of parents who push their children into a top-tier career for the money or the prestige. They just knew how long I’d wanted to be a lawyer for, and how much time I’d already given towards it (and how much money they’d paid in uni fees). They also knew that I had now been out of school for nearly five years and was still living at home. I can’t blame them, and now that they know I’m serious about being a teacher, they’re happy for me. They believe in the importance of education.
But ultimately, you have to do what you have to do. And as much as I loved the mooting and the letter writing and arguing that came with law school, I was beginning to wonder whether I wanted to sign up for a career that would eat up my free time and cause me immeasurable stress (although I’m pretty sure I’m still going to have some of that as a teacher). I wanted a career that I could reduce to part-time if I wanted. I wanted a career without incessant butt-kissing and bitching. I didn’t want to take a few years off work to have some kids down the track, and have to start from scratch when I re-joined the workforce. In short: being a lawyer would have suited my gifts, my interests and my passions, but it wouldn’t have let me have any other significant things in my life. Not if I wanted to make a good run of it, anyway. I’d rather have a full heart than a full wallet.
So I applied to do a degree in Secondary Education and got in. I just finished Semester 1 of my second year two days ago. Although most of my old school friends and my friends from law school have now graduated, while I still have 3.5 years of training left, I’m easily able to shake off any jealousy. I’m really happy for them, don’t get me wrong. They’re smart, lovely people. But each to their own. I know I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing and I don’t see the windy path I took as lost time.
And if you’re wondering who I plan to model my teaching career on… here you go…