I never played school as a child. I never played tea party or mothered my baby dolls. I never had the desire to “teach” others. My childhood was much like any other kid, then very different. I played outside, went to school and rode my bike. The difference was that outside of going to school, I didn’t do the other “kid” activities as often as most.
My parents started their own business when I was five. They taught gymnastics…to kids. So I spent the majority of my childhood in the gym. I flipped and tumbled and cartwheeled all day long. It’s where I grew up. It’s what defined me. I was Coach Tracy’s daughter. That was my dad. My mom taught classes for awhile, but she was more of the business person, my dad was the coach. So I spent most of my time as a kid following behind my dad as he coached….or better yet, as he taught. Teaching gymnastics to toddlers, preschool and school age kids takes more teaching skills than coaching. My dad was an amazing teacher. Almost thirty years later I still meet people young and old who say, “you’re Coach Tracy’s daughter?! I love your dad!!” It’s pretty cool.
Around twelve I started teaching gymnastics too. I would help out if an instructor was absent or if a class had a few “busy” students. My dad thought I did a pretty good job so by my thirteenth summer I was teaching classes by myself and getting paid. I taught gymnastics up until I got pregnant with my first child at the age of thirty. There were times when I loved it and those when I hated it. But it was the family business so it was just what we did, my sister, brothers and I.
When I went to college I knew I was going to be a lawyer. I was interested in history and english and politics. That stuff fascinated me. Also, I wanted to be wealthy. One thing about teaching gymnastics is that unless you are training competitive gymnasts (oh and unless you are a for-profit company, my parents business was a non-profit organization because they were less concerned with gymnastics itself and more concerned with how it could help kids in underprivileged communities. Pretty noble hunh? Yeah, I think so too…now ;-)), there is not a lot of money to be made. Like most young people I wanted to go to school, get a great job and live a life where I could “buy whatever I wanted,” (Oh to be young again, lol.) so I declared myself an english pre-law major. Three semesters and two schools later, I found myself at Spelman College. One of my elective courses (some humanities stuff) had us volunteering at the local elementary school. Remember, I had been working with children since I was very young so this assignment came easy to me. I actually enjoyed it. At the end of the semester two of my professors approached me and both made the same inquiry….”have you ever considered being a teacher?” Knowing me I probably literally laughed out loud when the first professor posed the question. But when the second, my english professor, wondered aloud the same idea….I began to think. I walked over to the education department and picked up the course load information. I was an upcoming junior and changing majors at that time would mean overloading my schedule for the next four semesters plus summer school for the next two summers. The classes sounded interesting. I enjoyed working with children. And most importantly, a friend and education major told me the classes were easy. I was sold! So much for being wealthy! I was going to change the world. (Oh to be young again ;-).
Four years and two classrooms later, I quit teaching. No. That’s an understatement. I ran from the profession kicking, screaming and crying. I was crushed, defeated, deflated and confused. I was lost. I had no idea what to do with myself, but I felt like teaching could not be for me. I moved home and tried to figure out what to do next. After trying a few go-nowhere jobs, I became a substitute teacher. (The comedy that is life.) I was a substitute teacher during the day and I would still teach gymnastics in the evening. Look at that, thought I was getting away from teaching. The summer came and I still had no real idea about what to do. Offers for jobs came across my lap, but nothing jumped out at me. I wanted to be passionate about what I did. I wanted to love it. Then one evening after a gym class, one of my preschool parents approached me and asked if I had ever thought about teaching preschool. Light-bulb, Hallelujah moment!
Teaching pre-k was the best four years of my life. To say that I loved it is not enough. I came alive when I walked into that classroom. The energy, the creative autonomy, the love from those little people…it was magic. Then, in my fourth year I got pregnant and the state decided to cut the pay for its state pre-k program. With a new baby on the way I didn’t think I could take a pay cut. So back into the regular classroom I went.
Having a new baby is wonderful…..and hard. Couple that with going to a job that I had a love/hate relationship with and the stress level was through the roof. I taught for three more years…..and I quit teaching. No. That’s an understatement. I ran from the profession kicking, screaming and crying. Well, maybe not crying this time. This time I wasn’t confused. I was very clear about what was right about my relationship with teaching and what was wrong. And like with any other relationship, once you have taken inventory and you can say with a clear conscious that its over…you need to move on.
So I moved on. I am collecting my hopes and dreams and fears and putting them all together. I thank God for sending me my wonderfully supportive husband who turned to me right before the start of the school year as we were discussing what I should do and said, “why don’t you just stay home and figure it out?” When I say I love that man, that is an understatement. Mind you my husband is a teacher, so not only does he understand my plight, this is a huge sacrifice for our family. Love is powerful though. It’s hard sometimes, but I know that he just wants me to be happy and along with all of his other amazing attributes, is why I said “I do.”
So this morning (it may be afternoon by now, I’m long winded) I am sitting on our couch, our two year old is napping and I am working on my hopes and dreams and fears. I am a teacher. I will always be a teacher. I do not believe that you choose teaching, it chooses you. But I’m different, as all teachers are in some way. I’m a gypsy teacher. I twirled into teaching unassumingly and I danced and jumped and tumbled through my eleven year classroom experience. I nomadically moved from school to school, classroom to classroom, grade level to grade level trying to keep my passion alive. And now I’m here, determined to teach without boundaries or walls or boxes. I’m here to spread my creativity and passion and fire. I’m here to bring light and movement to learning. I’m here to empower and to continue to always be enlightened. I’m here. Gypsy teacher. That’s me.