“why do you think you would be a good teacher?”

I will start at the beginning.

In the spring of 2007, after a year of administrative office work, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to explore my curiosity about teaching. A bachelor’s degree in history made me highly qualified to teach private school, though I would eventually find my way into the public school system. And so sometime in May of 2007 I found myself sitting across from the two people at a private Christian school who were to become my headmaster and lead teacher, respectively. (I may have more to say about religious education later, but I haven’t decided…)

This in-person conversation was my second interview, and after asking me the obligatory questions (background, academic experience, work experience, etc.), they put down my papers and asked the question.

“Why do you think you would be a good teacher?”

I can remember the moment so clearly. The office was in an old church building – florescent lights, low ceilings, concrete slab floors with those specs to make it look fancy (I guess?). I was sitting on the other side of the desk in an old chair. If this were a movie, the camera would have slowly zoomed in tightly on my face with the question echoing in the background as sweat slowly started to bead up on my forehead.

Fortunately I had my response ready.

“I really love history. I think it’s exciting to figure out how to help other people understand how events unfolded and why they’re important. And I like thinking of creative ways to do that.”

What an idiot!

It must have been good enough though, because I was hired and entrusted with all of the history for grades 6 through 12, as well as yearbook and speech classes. I’m still not sure if I was the right person for the job, or just a warm body. (I would later have many conversations with friends who also taught at private schools about the tendency to overload young, naïve newcomers.) But this was the start of my career and my journey in teaching and education policy. Make no mistake, I am forever grateful and indebted to that school, and those two staff members in particular, for the risk they took by hiring me and for the investment they made in me. But what a long time ago that was, and what a different educator and person I have become as a result of my teaching experiences.

After two years out of the classroom, I’ve decided to relive my 5-year journey, starting at the beginning. This is not meant to be a thesis on the state of teaching in America; it is simply the story of how I came to be a teacher, why I loved it so much, and what I’m still learning about it years after I left.

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