Search form

Missing the opportunity to teach and be taught.


By Martha Elouise Paine

What is teaching like today? Who should do it? And who shouldn't? This Education World series features essays on teaching by teachers as they answer the question, "If you had it to do all over again, would you still become a teacher?"

I think I first realized that I love teaching when, after a move to another state, I was unable to even get an interview for a teaching position. I felt like life was going on without me. When August came, I longed to be in a classroom preparing for my students.

After asking on a weekly basis for approximately 6 months that my application be placed on superintendents desks, I finally was told by a secretary that I just had too many years of teaching experience. Their superintendents were hiring less experienced and less expensive teachers just out of college. (I dont think she was supposed to tell me that.)

Martha Elouise Paine
Martha Elouise Paine is a teacher of emotionally and behaviorally disordered students at Eastwood Elementary School in New Castle, Indiana.

So, I reluctantly took a job as a court clerk at the county courthouse. Of course, I felt like I had been quantum-leaped into someone elses life, and soon found that I didnt have the skills the job required. Quickly, I went into teacher mode, laying out a plan for gaining those skills. I became my own teacher. It was actually fun gaining new skills and seeing myself progress and become quite able to fulfill the job assignments.

I sure missed being with children, though. Quite frankly, children were my favorite teachers. I learned more about teaching from 10+ years of working with children than I ever learned as an undergraduate or masters candidate at one of the best teachers colleges in the country. I really missed the experiences that led to a better understanding of children and how they learn. I probably never would have taken the position Im in today -- teaching emotionally and behaviorally handicapped students at the elementary level -- if I hadnt so longed to be back teaching children.

After nine years and another move back to my home state, I found myself taking a last-minute opening in special education. (I had licenses to teach both general education and special education at the elementary level.) I was thrilled to be back in the classroom, even though Id have to pursue a second masters degree to teach the class for the emotionally and behaviorally disordered, and Id heard that the turnover rate for teachers of those disabilities was two years.

I have to admit that working with students that present extreme challenges to learning and teaching has been exhausting, sometimes discouraging, but most of all very rewarding. When I had the chance to move into another position, I just could not leave. I love my job. I love my students. I think the more of myself I invest in teaching children, the more I love it.

I plan to retire from teaching somedaymaybe. For now, though, I am so glad to be here and to have this opportunity to teach and be taught.

Click here to return to the main article.

Love Teaching?

Do you love teaching? If you had it to do all over again, would you? Could you? Share your thoughts in a Love Teaching essay and send it to [email protected]. If we publish it, we'll send you an official Education World mug.