Thursday, May 03, 2018

My Apprenticeship

I hold a BS in Journalism from the University of Oregon, with an emphasis in advertising. Earlier in my career, I worked in public relations and as a freelance writer, but with the birth of our daughter Josephine I chose to step away from the paid workforce to be what we call a stay-at-home parent.

I tend by nature toward introversion, which meant that I was quite happy spending those days actually staying at home, playing and nurturing, but by the time Josephine was old enough to express an opinion, she began to say to me, "Let's do something!" That's what lead us to the Latona Cooperative Preschool, a place that was sold to me as "a place where parents get to go to school with their child." And that's more or less what I did for the next three years: attend school with Josephine. I might have picked up a few writing jobs here and there, but for the most part, my days revolved around being in the classroom working alongside other parent-teachers, attending parent meetings where I received some basic parent education under the auspices of what was then North Seattle Community College, and, most importantly, being in the room with a master teacher named Chris David.

There have been many influences on me as a teacher, but none come close to the impact that Teacher Chris has had on the teaching part of my life. When I first began working with her I was convinced I was in the presence of a magician, the way she handled difficult situations, addressed challenging behavior, and generally managed the classroom. At the time, I had no thoughts of being a teacher myself, yet I still found myself mimicking her any way, copying her words, her gestures, even the way she would stand in place. It was Teacher Chris who first planted the idea in my head of becoming a teacher, asking, "What are you going to do when Josephine heads off to kindergarten?" When I answered that I hadn't given it much thought, she gave me one of the biggest gifts of my life when she suggested that she thought I would make a good teacher.

I immediately enrolled in classes at the college, but before I was done with my first semester, I'd been hired by Woodland Park. That was 17 years ago and I've not gone back. I don't think I've missed anything by not having an academic background in teaching, although, of course, I have no way of knowing for sure. What I do know is that from day one I felt fully prepared. There were surprises, of course, and things I had to noodle my way through, but that's true of any new job. Mostly, I just channeled my inner Teacher Chris whose "magic tricks" I'd absorbed. I imitated her schedules, her routines, and her circle time songs. Visitors who knew both Chris and me would always remark on how much I sounded like her, some even calling me "Teacher Chris Junior," a chide that I heard as a compliment of the highest order.

Naturally, over the years, I've made it my own, but every single day I do or say something that echoes my time with Teacher Chris. She is still there with me, with us, still mentoring me from a distance of 17 years. Maybe there is something I missed in not taking the main highway into this profession, maybe I could have used some of that academic stuff, but I've had enough formal education to know that much of it would have been mere busy work, never to be actually applied in my own classroom. I do know, however, that I use everything I learned during my apprenticeship with Teacher Chris, every day: there's no way that I would be here today without it.

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