Andrea Finkle is a middle school Language Arts teacher at Southwestern Middle School in DeLand, FL. She is now in her sixth year of teaching. She has taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Language Arts and AVID over the last six years- she has been very busy.
There are some who say that teachers are born and not made. After avoiding becoming a public school teacher for almost 20 years, I finally had to face the fact that I was born to be a teacher.
All the signs were there, early on: When I was a little girl growing up on the Near North Side of Chicago, I would line up my stuffed animals in front of a chalkboard in our basement and teach them. I led reading study groups of my peers in my third grade classroom. Although I attempted to teach something to practically everyone I met, I didn’t grow up wanting to be a teacher. I was going to be first“an office girl,” then a cashier, and– as I grew older– a lawyer. Life and fate intervened, and I became a teacher after several other opportunities ran their courses.
Now, in my sixth year of being a middle school Language Arts teacher, I realize I should have started sooner, but I also realize that my maturity gives me some advantages that younger teachers do not have.
For one thing, I have raised two children of my own into their mid-teens. I experienced middle school as a parent at the same time I was experiencing it as a teacher. This gave me invaluable perspectives on both fronts. Being able to say, “I survived my children going through middle school,” is a marvelous way for me to connect with parents, because I assure them that I know they can too! I also give off somewhat of a “Mom” vibe to my students, so that adds a measure of authority to my presence in the classroom. It also tends to make my students feel a certain amount of security because they figure I know I the score and understand them to a certain extent.
I have another edge: sharing my profession with my husband. I watched him survive and thrive as a middle school teacher for 15 years, so I figured I can do it, too! We teach the same subject at the same school and share department chair duties. Fortunately, we enjoy this level of closeness and collaboration. We offer our students the opportunity to see a marriage that works—something many of them don’t see anywhere else.
I have learned in my five years of being a “real” teacher that while real students are inherently frequently less cooperative than the stuffed animals of my childhood, they are infinitely more interesting and, ultimately, more rewarding. Nothing can compare to a middle school girl eagerly coming to you to tell you that the book you recommended was “awesome” and asking, “Are there any more like that?” or a middle school boy wanting you to read what he wrote “right now.”
With all of the accountability measures descending on the teaching profession, I constantly remind myself to consistently try to remember that when you are born to something, no amount of measuring can make you into anything else.