I still have a book I made in my first-grade class when we were asked to write about what we wanted to do with our lives. I said I wanted to be a teacher. It’s been a somewhat indirect and somewhat challenging pathway at times, but, today, I’m happy to have reached that goal.
Like many new teachers, I struggled a bit during my early years, but I was lucky to have the support of great colleagues and a union – Smyrna Education Association – that thoroughly backed me through difficult times and helped me succeed.
When I took a position as a math teacher at Smyrna High School, of course, student grades and scores were a priority for the district. Although I believed my students were learning to enjoy math and understand various concepts, some students were still struggling. Their grades in my class did not meet the threshold the district set.
I followed district guidance on how to improve because I felt I could benefit from any advice; I was still a new teacher. While I followed their recommendations, my student’s grades did not improve enough. The district kept me on an improvement plan and continued to express concerns about my work.
But something was not right. How could I meet their goals if by following their recommendations grades still did not improve? That put me in an impossible situation. I filed a grievance.
With the support of my local, my concerns were raised with the district. A mediator was appointed and ruled that while grades were important, they could not be the only source of information for evaluating me. Other ideas were introduced to help my students. That gave me the confidence to commit even more strenuously to my work as a teacher – with the fair treatment and support I needed.
After that experience, my work in the union grew. I am currently our local’s membership chairperson.
I’ve been a teacher for 13 successful years. Not long ago, a student asked me if I really enjoyed being a teacher. The answer was very clear – in just the way it had been for me in first grade.