To Teach or not to Teach, that’s my question

I had made a weak attempt at looking for schools. I wrote down the top creative writing colleges in the country, and read an article in the Atlantic on the best colleges for writing and why, and then stopped right about there.

Oh, and I wonder why I never accomplish things. Sigh. I remember when I was in high school and I would talk about my dreams and everything I was going to do (things I don’t remember, except for wanting to act or go to Ireland) and my friend’s boyfriend said to me, “you say you are going to do all these things and you don’t do any of them.” I felt pretty bad about that, I still do every time I come up with some other plan for my future. In my defense though, I did do something with acting, maybe I didn’t become famous, but I did tour, and I have been paid more than once to act, and I not only went to Ireland, I lived there, so screw that boy friend, of my friend, who faded into obscurity with all of her other boy friends.

I’ve been struggling with something new: (ha-ha surprise me struggling) or I guess it isn’t new, but, I will try to explain, more for myself than my invisible audience. I’ve been volunteering with Write Around Portland for about four years. My intention for becoming a volunteer facilitator was fairly typical, I think, in the way that I had hoped it would look good on my resume. Four years later, I have found that my volunteer experience has not helped me in finding work. Another reason I joined was that at the time my mother was homeless. She had been struggling with heroin and  an emotionally abusive relationship which eventually lead to both of them living on the streets. I thought about my mother, not just as my mom but as a person, and how she picked up a heroin habit and became homeless in her fifties. How does that happen to a person? I know my mother has no sense of worth, and that she feels that the only thing she ever did worth any thing in this life was have me. This breaks my heart to think about, of course because she is my mother, but also because she is a human being, and how tragic to feel you have no worth for this life. Write Around Portland reaches out to people who feel and are marginalized. I thought, if my mother had something like this in her life would it have helped her? I had wanted to work with adults, but in some twist I ended up working with a teen group.

I did not want to work with youth, I felt there were plenty of people who wanted to work with youth and besides, I didn’t know how. Three years later I am still working with youth, even younger now, and the age has forced me to adapt my style to be less of a facilitator and more of a teacher. The people at Write Around Portland call me the Kid Whiz, and the best youth facilitator, but more then that, a teacher, at the school where I am currently facilitating, told me that the kids are always writing and sharing their work in her class, and that some of them had said they hated writing, but after being in the workshop all they want to do is write. There’s nothing more confirming than that. But the truth is I don’t know what I am doing all I know is that it is easy and hard simultaneously. My biggest lesson in working with middle school age has been to let go of things I want, and to feel out what they want, which is challenging and can be frustrating. I just hope that they like writing and more than that I want them to believe in themselves and their creative being no matter what they become when they grow up.

So where is the problem? Well I have been wondering if I should get my teaching certificate, but my problem is the investment of time and money in returning to school just to try to get a job in an industry that seems to be falling apart. I know teachers who are frustrated and unhappy in the school systems, and I know of teachers who are out of work and unable to get jobs anywhere. Teachers are underpaid and underappreciated, the schools are closing left and right, and they are cutting programs like creative writing and theatre which is what I do. My chances of even getting a job seem slim and the whole system seems to be designed by people who have no idea how to teach or even what it is like to be in a room full of children. Yet, it seems like I should be a teacher. Not because I have some ideals as to how things should be done but because it is something I can do, I have a natural ability to teach. Not just kids, I do well in all teaching capacities. I don’t know why and I never aspired to teach but it’s just there. Still what is the point even if you are good at something if you can’t get a job and if you get a job in a system that doesn’t allow you to teach? The only schools that offer the arts will be privileged schools and what about all the other children?

I just can’t figure out if the time and the money and the debt is worth it. Plus I don’t have this overwhelming desire to be a teacher, I’m far too selfish to want to be a teacher, no it feels more like a calling. Not I want, but I should. But that’s just stupid isn’t it? If someone were to say why did you become a teacher, and I said, because it was my calling it is my natural ability and gift. Wouldn’t that be an unsatisfying response? I guess my biggest fear is that the educational system would take away my natural ability to teach. It really is fear that prevents me from making a decision.

So on a whim I wrote a letter to this guy, (or his administrative office) and asked him what I should do. In my book it is about the same as asking the universe the chance of  response will be about the same


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