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I Started in the Middle

Currently COVID-19 has brought the word to a near standstill. Texas is slowly opening back up and school are scrambling to hold alternative graduation celebrations. I was scrolling through Facebook and noticed that my first set of sixth graders should have been walking the stage dressed in cap and gown last night. My first set of eighth graders are getting engaged, married, and having babies. I am also a member of several teacher groups on fb. One in particular has a large number of new teachers who are looking for their first teaching job. The combination of seeing my first year students and the new first-year teachers has got me thinking back to when I first started teaching.

Graduation day was finally here! I am now a college graduate. Finally. You see, I didn't do the typical go-right-into-college-after-high-school thing like everyone else. That just wasn't in the plans for me. Y'all, I grew up in a small town, in Texas, with a dad who worked in the oil field and a stay at home mom. My parents did not have a savings account for my brother nor I to use to go to college. I wasn't a STAR athlete, or even great at academics so, no scholarship money either. My mom never even went to high school and my dad just barely got by with finishing high school. I was determined to get my college degree, even if it was going to take forever, but that is a story for another day. Anyway, here I am a divorced, thirty-five-year-old, single mom achieving my dream to be a teacher since I was a little girl. Let me tell you, that was one of the BEST feelings I have ever had!

Me and three of my friends dressed in cap and gown just before college graduation.

My goal was to land a job at the junior high school in the district in which my children attended school. I had already been working the right angles to get hired there; completed all my observations there, student taught there, was a substitute teacher there (two years)... BUT (why is there always a BUT?) This district very seldom hires brand-new, first-year teachers. I applied anyway, and I also applied in all the surrounding districts in my county and even a little north. Waiting to hear back from anyone was so stressful.

Then crickets. I attended two teacher job fairs: still nothing. Finally, I got a call back from a little tiny 2A district. They have one elementary, one intermediate, one junior high (middle school), and one high school. Did I accept their offer for an interview? Heck yes! Y'all this school was so tiny and everyone was so kind. I felt right at home. Except there was one question from one of the teachers on the interview panel...sheesh, she tried to throw me off, but she couldn't. At the time, I thought it was one of the most inappropriate things to ask.

This teacher said to me, "Since you would be teaching health and reproductive systems if you are hired, what would you say to a student who asked you, "what is masturbation?"" I guess I hid the look of shock on my face that I was definitely making in my mind. I remained calm and said, " I would tell them that they needed to ask their parents." A few questions later and the interview was over.

Thirty minutes after I left I got a call from the principal offering me the job! I accepted, and a few days later went back to pick up my new hire packet and sign my contract. It was official, I was hired as a seventh grade science teacher. Not just A seventh grade science teacher, but THE seventh-grade science teacher for the whole district! (Remember, I said it was a little district?) My new principal gave me a tour of the school and I was able to meet a few of my new co-workers then. He showed me my classroom and told me that the teacher who was retiring was leaving everything in there for me. WHAT?! How cool was that? I couldn't wait to get started cleaning MY room and getting it set up how I wanted it. I was so excited; I hardly slept that week.

Just to let y'all know, things don't always go as planned. The day after I finished getting my room cleaned, set up, and decorated how I wanted it, my principal called me to tell me that the eighth-grade teacher was leaving and he wanted ME to teach the eighth-grade and half of the sixth-grade science classes. THE DAY AFTER I SET UP MY ROOM! I asked him if I accepted the offer to teach sixth and eighth-grade, would I get the big science classroom. Yep, that was my only concern...could I have the big room. Nothing about eighth-grade Science STAAR test, nothing about having two preps...just could I have the big room. I was definitely a first-year teacher. Of course I was able get the big room. And so my journey began, I started in the Middle.

Middle school classroom empty desks
Before painting and re-arranging

middle school classroom with empty desks and periodic table on the wall
After painting and re-arranging


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