Julie Pickhaver, Providence Public Schools

I am a fourth year teacher in the Providence Public School System. I teach ELA and reading intervention.  I earned my masters degree in Urban Education from Providence College.

Julie Pickhaver

My third year of teaching is over, and, while most teachers are relaxing and excited for the long awaited summer break, I am preparing to go back in a week for summer school. What the hell am I thinking? This is a question I often ask myself and perhaps more frequently am asked by others. “ Miss, why are you a teacher? It must be miserable… Middle School? Oh wow you must be a saint…You’re at what school?? Good Luck!”  Unless you are speaking to another teacher, it is almost impossible to explain to someone why we do what we do. We usually laugh it off with the casual; “Oh I do it for the summers off.” How can I possibly explain why I get to work every morning before most people wake up. Why I spend countless hours after school working when I am only paid until three.  Why I deal with fistfights, food fights, tears, throw up, and everything else I might encounter on an average school day.

Over the course of this year, I began reflecting on why I, as my friends so lovingly say, “put myself through this everyday.”  First of all, the thought of sitting in a cubicle every day typing at a computer or sending emails bores me to death. Like most teachers, I love learning and improving my practice. Teaching is the only profession I can think of where I have the chance to be better every single day. It’s the only job I can think of where I can learn from funny, intelligent yet sometimes brutally honest middle school students everyday. (No one in an office setting would tell me, “Hey miss, I hate your face with glasses.” Lesson Learned. I don’t look good with glasses.) Their curiosity and honesty make my job both challenging and refreshing.

Secondly, working with a support system of people who know exactly what you are going through is worthwhile. My colleagues make those days where I don’t think I can go on bearable. As a young teacher, I learn from and admire all the veteran teachers at my school. Their dedication to our students and years of wisdom inspire me to go to work everyday. They have dealt with more than most faculties yet come to work everyday dedicated to improving the lives of our students. It’s hard to articulate how powerful it is to be in a building where adults are working tirelessly to ensure a successful future for students.

Lastly, I teach because I firmly believe that every child deserves access to a high quality education.  This belief has been strengthened through relationships with my colleagues and the success of my students. I teach because I learn about hard work and resilience from my students every day.  I teach because of the “aha” look that children have when they finally get it–in truth, that by itself is enough to keep me in this rewarding profession.

One Response to “Julie Pickhaver, Providence Public Schools”

  1. Tom Ehrlich 11. Jul, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

    I am also a teacher, but unlike Julie, I am 79 years old and teach at the Stanford School of Education. I greatly admire Julie and her commitment to providing every child with access to high-quality education, a commitment we share. Julie’s task is much harder than mine, for she is on the front lines of making the future brighter for the children she teaches and the world in which those children will live. But being surrounded by bright young people seeking to work in education is a great privilege for me, a form of public service that, like Julie’s. It is a noble calling.

    P.S. The Web site I’ve listed is for a new book I’ve written with a remarkable Stanford undergraduate, Ernestine Fu, on why and how people of all ages, especially young people should engage in public service. It is full of stories of remarkable young civic leaders like Julie.

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