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December 07, 2007

The Joy of Teaching

Hi, my name is Vanessa, and I teach public pre-kindergarten in the Dallas, Texas area; I am very excited to be sharing my classroom experiences with you this year.

To me, teaching pre-k is about joy. It is about doing something you love and are passionate about every single day. The best part of my job is that my students share my passion -- the more they enjoy and love school, the more I love what I do. I have tried traditional 9-5 jobs and found them unfulfilling and completely "joyless." For me, teaching is my life. I have embraced it fully and can’t imagine doing anything else that would make me as happy (or exhausted) as teaching.

My pre-k journey has spanned two continents, three states, and 15 years. A series of twists and turns led me to where I am today. I always knew I was going to be a teacher; I knew I liked the younger grades but never imagined I would end up in pre-k. My journey has taken me on adventures to many different places, each one teaching me something new about myself, teaching, and life along the way.

The first stop in my journey took me Seoul, South Korea, where I taught English as a second language (ESL) for a year after graduating from Michigan State University. There’s nothing like spending a year in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language to teach you many things about yourself. During my year in Seoul I discovered I had a passion for other cultures and teaching ESL. There’s nothing better than watching the face of a young child light up as they learn how to communicate with you in a new language.

Upon my return from Seoul I was looking for a way to combine my passion for teaching both ESL and young children. I made a brief pit-stop in my journey and spent a year teaching in a small, private school in the Detroit area. While I enjoyed my time there immensely, I felt something was missing. I didn’t feel like I was making a difference in my student’s lives because they came from predominately wealthy families. They seemed like they were going to succeed with or without me. It was then I discovered I had yet another passion: I wanted to make a difference in the lives of economically disadvantaged of children.

Next, my fate changed when I attended a recruitment fair at a local university and was offered a public school job in Houston, Texas. I decided to look at it as another adventure in my journey, so I took the job, sight unseen. It was in Houston that I was first able to combine my passions of working with young children, serving the economically disadvantaged, and teaching ESL. I was overjoyed at finally being able to fulfill my dream. I was teaching English and making a difference in the lives of young children on a daily basis -- life was good.

Of course, life intervened as it has a habit of doing, and while I was in Houston I met my husband. We moved to Boston where my journey then took me to Head Start. While Head Start did combine all three of my passions, after a few years in Boston we decided to relocate to Dallas.

So that, my new friends, brings us to the current chapter in my life’s journey. We have been in Dallas now for nine years. One thing I have learned from my travels is that children are the same wherever you go. They are as eager to learn as I am to teach them. I consider myself lucky to be working in a field that I enjoy immensely every single day. I hope to use this blog as a vehicle to give you a glimpse into a real public pre-k classroom this year and demonstrate how such programs can make a huge impact on the lives of young children. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with me by commenting on my entries. I would love to hear what others have to say about a subject I am so passionate about.

Comments

Great blog. Here, I have worked with you for a year and a half,and I didn't know all that about you. I know your passion is real and your journey is ongoing. Thanks for sharing your considerable expertise! Keep up the good work.

Vanessa, you mentioned two words that are a central part of my own vocabulary - JOY & JOURNEY. As a parent kids grow up much to fast and I have had the pleasure of seeing eight of them grow up, each with their own individual ways and unique personalities.

While it is marvelous that you have found a calling helping those who are economically disadvantaged, I have also seen so many kids of rich parents who have next two no relationship and these are latch-key kids, so I cannot imagine what latch-key kids who live with economic disadvantage face.

I am in full agreement about the importance of investing in kids very early - especially kids who will grow up into a far more complex world than th one we know. The 4 year old of today will walk into a vastly different world to the one we presently know in 20 years time and how can society warrant such technological and scientific development, without applying due resources to give our kids the capacity and capability to deal with these futures.

Money spent on the front end of education or indeed in the effort to improve any type of process invariably ALWAYS pays some kind of dividend at the backend. We are living in a mind age and we are mindless about education priorities - and one does not need to be at all visionary to know that such a position does not make sense.

Of course just as much as we need to make greater investments in early education, we also have to advocate greater quality of life, for without that, how many parents really have time to focus on love and caring, when they are being run ragged by their nose-to-the-wheel duties and financial responsibilities. An insane social system always leads to the creation of insane world.

M.

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