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From Camera to Classroom: How I Became a Photographer, Part I

May 7, 2020

Let’s take it back to December 2015. I had just completed my student teaching assignment and, therefore, my Master of Education degree. Since it was mid-school year and I hadn’t taken any time off between my undergraduate and graduate degree, I decided to take a couple months to perfect my teaching application and find an odd job. Living at the beach, there were few jobs hiring in the dead of winter, but I found one that started in March and lasted through the summer. I worked as a barista for six months—coffee on the beach during the summer? Not bad, right?

In May of that year, I went to the local teaching job fair. The county we lived in is fairly large, with six high schools. Considering I came from a county with one high school and didn’t realize that other places had more than one high school for each county, it felt huge. Innocent, bright-eyed me entered into the building just hoping for one bite…one little shred of hope that I had what it took to be a teacher.

I left that building with two offers and a third interview. To say I was on Cloud 9 is an understatement. One interview and three school tours later, I had come to a decision. I was going to be teaching 12th grade English and coaching cross country and girls’ soccer. Probablyyy my ideal job. 

Then the school year started. Caleb was deployed at the time, so we were navigating that as well (it was his first one…definitely an adjustment period). I threw myself into work. Got to school an hour early every morning (first period started at 7:09), went to practice and meets all throughout the week, had the occasional weekend meet, and planned my next week’s worth of lesson plans or graded a mountain of papers every evening when I got home. I was easily working 80-90 hour weeks.

I faced situations in the classroom that no Masters degree will ever prepare you for. I will spare you the details, but my highlight reel from that school year includes a fight in my classroom, drugs in my classroom, and finding a bullet in my classroom.

Needless to say, I was overwhelmed. It was not what I expected it to be. I mean, I was supposed to be changing the lives of every student in my classroom, right? HA! Wrong. I was somehow their enemy before they even walked through my door. I thought that maybe if I planned enough, smiled enough, pushed enough, that maybe I would feel like I made a difference. And in small ways, I think I did. But the input did not match the output.

Once Caleb returned and I was still putting in 80-90 hour weeks…well, that didn’t go over well. We never saw each other after six months of literally never seeing each other. On top of that, we were trying to start a family (a story for another time). I was stressed; he was stressed; the dogs were stressed. I’m kidding, but they probably were. I was a ball of nerves just waiting to lash out at whoever said something slightly wrong to me (and nine times out of ten, they weren’t saying something wrong; I was just interpreting it that way). 

Then all the teachers got this email in their inboxes. The subject line read “Time to Sign Your Letter of Intent.” This is simply a letter saying whether or not you plan on returning the following year so that the county knows how many teachers they need to recruit at the annual job fair…

Head to Part II here

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