When I was a senior in high school, I knew that I wanted to do something with English. My conscious took a hold of that fact and wouldn’t let it go–something inside of me kept begging to become a teacher. But how could I even think about seriously becoming a teacher if I didn’t believe I could do it?
As the middle child of three, I grew up in a household that was dominated by Farsi. It was the only language I knew and that I understood. My English on the other hand? Not so great. The most clear memory I have that displayed my then lack of English was in the third grade. My teacher had asked me to put some papers on the counter and I could not, for the life of me, understand what a counter was. So I winged it, and seemed to wing everything else relating English until I became comfortable with speaking and understanding it around the fourth grade.
Once fourth grade hit and I was much more fluent in English, and so I started to fall in love with books. Anything that seemed remotely interesting I would get my hands on, and read. Shel Silverstein, Goosebumps, The Berenstain Bears, Eric Carle, and my favorite, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. There was something with English that just drew me to it. It was amazing to me that so many authors could create such beautiful stories–how their own experiences, beliefs, opinions would play into the creation of a story. Whenever I would open a book, I would be transformed into another world and live my life through the eyes of a character. It was my escape.
All of this time reading books and loving English, but it wasn’t until community college where I was able to get enough support and encouragement to make my goal of becoming a teacher an actual vision. My love for English was further fueled by my passion to teach. Being able to know that you could impart knowledge to other individuals is an exciting thought to me. I was ready to become a teacher and create change in students’ lives. Specifically, I wanted to become a high school English teacher.
High School? Well good luck with that! People would laugh when I told them, obviously joking. But the reality is, teaching is tough. Whenever I would read blog posts from current and past teachers, there was a common agreement: The field requires a lot of hard work and patience.
I decided to get some more information on the career of teaching from a first-hand source myself. As a future teacher, I’m concerned with the general aspect of teaching. What can I expect once I become a teacher, and what can I do to become an effective one at that? Aside from the common agreement that the career is a hard one, what other valuable information is there for future teachers to understand?
I interviewed Maria Macabales, a current 8th grade teacher at Auburndale Intermediate School, located within the Corona-Norco District in California. Mrs. Macabales has been teaching with Auburndale Intermediate since 2003. My decision to interview her is largely due to her experience in the teaching field, and her excellent credentials prove it. I feel that as a teacher–no matter what grade or subject you teach–there is common and important information that all teachers can provide that will help anyone.
Mrs. Macabales and I discussed her personal journey and the teaching career in general:
P: You’ve been doing your job for more than ten years now, which speaks volumes about your commitment to this career. How did you first become involved with teaching in the first place?
M: Teaching is a second career for me. I had a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics so I initially did project and financial analysis. However, I worked part-time for several years so I can raise my children. During that time, I volunteered as a room mom in my children’s classes and got to interact with children in the classroom. It was then that I discovered that I enjoyed teaching young minds and seeing their response to my efforts.
P: What steps did you take to become professionally ready to become a qualified teacher?
M: I went to California Baptist University for a year and a half to get my Multiple Subject Credential. I didn’t immediately get a Master’s degree because I wanted to see first which area I wanted to specialize in. After around six years of teaching, upon the encouragement of my previous principal, I decided to get a Master’s degree in Educational Administration and a Tier 1 Administrative Credential from California State University in San Bernardino. Since I have a Multiple Subject Credential and have been teaching 8th grade Math, I had to take additional math courses from UCR Extension to get a Supplemental Authorization in math and be designated as a highly qualified teacher under NCLB. To prepare for the advent of Common Core State Standards (CCSS), I have attended numerous professional development workshops through the district and on my own. I have also actively assumed teacher leadership positions in school as team leader, administrative designee, School Site Council representative, GATE coordinator, Superintendent Teacher Advisory Council member and have served as Math Department Chairperson for the past six years. I have served on several math committees for the district. I am also an active teacher union representative (for Corona-Norco Teachers’ Association or CNTA) and currently serve as its Election Chair. I have purposely assumed leadership positions since I also enjoy working in this capacity.
P: That’s amazing how much effort you’ve put into your education to become so highly qualified. I think what’s so frustrating to hear from people who are unfamiliar with the teaching field tend to think that becoming a teacher–and a good one at that–is as easy as simply stating, “Hey! I think I want to be a teacher.” For other people, teaching is seen as the last resort job when all other options have failed. What kinds of people do experience the greatest success in this field?
M: It is a huge stereotype about teaching and teachers in general, and that frustrates me too. The type of people who will truly experience success in this field, I can tell you, are not those types as you just stated. Successful teachers are self-motivated, highly organized lifelong learners who are willing and able to adapt to change. You must have a genuine desire to help children. You have to be your best advocate since teaching can be a “thankless” job. You do not always see the difference you’re making in students’ lives. You have to always validate your own efforts.
P: Personally for you, what do you like best about your career?
M: I am always motivated by the daily opportunity to reach out to students and hopefully make a difference in their lives. It doesn’t always happen and may not even be immediately manifested but when it does happen and is shared with me, it is infinitely rewarding and satisfying.
P: On a contradictory note, what part of your career wears you out?
M: The work of a teacher is never-ending, with lesson planning, file and classroom management, “housekeeping” and others but the most draining is managing the behavior of problem students. Effective control of “problem students” requires understanding, patience, consistency, wisdom and firmness on a daily basis. It isn’t always easy to do and can be emotionally and mentally exhausting.
P: Lastly, what advice do you have for me and other future teachers, Mrs. Macabales?
M: First, you have to be passionate about teaching. You go into teaching because you genuinely want to interact and help students. Know your content area very well. Find a way to share your love of your content area with your students to keep them engaged and successful in your class. Don’t be afraid to try new strategies. Celebrate your triumphs but always be ready for failures because you learn more from them. Most of all, take care of yourself. Be your best cheerleader since you will not always get external validation. Because you teach, you already make a difference.
This interview made me realize that while I am absolutely excited to go into the teaching career, it made stop and realize: teachers are humans too. So often I would believe they would run on some crazy formula that made them impenetrable. But like everyone else, they have off days, they have days where nothing goes as planned, and they have days where they feel completely drained. This is something I should always have in the back of my mind because it is normal. I do not have to be superwoman to make a difference. So as Mrs. Macabales said, teaching requires “patience, consistency, wisdom and firmness on a daily basis.” What’s the most valuable out of teaching aside from trials and tribulations is knowing that you will be a part of many students’ live as a positive influence.