On being a teacher

Flowers from our garden: coneflower, hosta, Angel’s Breath Yarrow, and Monarda (Bee Balm).

I don’t get asked often why I became a teacher.

I knew very early on that being an educator was what I wanted to do. I remember being under ten years old and playing with my friends in my mother’s basement and using the 3’ x 2’ blackboard to practice.

I disappointed my mom.

My mom had it in her head that I should be an engineer. Mind you, she paid no heed to the fact that I really didn’t have that talent. She just thought, you go to college and you study to be an engineer. On a side note, when I talked of doing some time in the Peace Corps, she flipped. She said to me, “Why would you waste your college degree on that.” We were never to agree on that issue and although I didn’t experience the Peace Corps, I always wish that I had.

When I went off to college, teaching was all I had in my mind and I was never dissuaded from it. I remember that my only question was which subject I was going to pursue. At the end of high school, History and French were my choices. As it turns out, my main confusion when I was a freshman, was the difference between being an Education Major or a French Major with a teaching certificate. When I found out that the French specialization meant more French, I opted for that. I remember that it was almost impossible for me to get anyone to explain why it was better to do that than just get a degree in Education. I actually remember how frustrated I was at the freshmen orientation since no one seemed capable of telling me why I would do one or the other.

My four years of college went smoothly, so much so that I had four finals on the same day in my first quarter of school and changed none of them to make it easier. I was anxious to get home so I thought I would bite the bullet and do them all on one day.

Never in my four years did I question the teaching goal and I was not disappointed. I knew that I was not headed into a lucrative career but I also was aware of the ultimate importance of educating people and willing to accept the monetary issues that would accompany my it. Luckily, I ended up on the North Shore of Chicago where teachers are treated better than elsewhere.

My junior year abroad, in which I spent less on tuition than I would have at the regular campus, was amazing and one in which I took all my coursework in French at the Institut de Touraine in Tours, France and lived with a family. Although two Americans lived with me and the family, we made a pact at the very beginning to only speak French and actually kept to it.

There are things I might have changed in my life but never would I have changed my calling. I recall in Graduate School and my Teaching Assistantship experience being told by my first evaluator that he just couldn’t get over how natural I was in the classroom and how I seemed to really know what to do.

That sealed the deal.

About Richard Koerner

Sixty something, father, papi, educator, organizer, Francophile, traveler, amateur photographer, gardener, cyclist, kayaker, calligrapher, cinephile, reader, and overall renaissance type human being.
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