I was at book club the other night, enjoying the usual rhythms of our post-book chat, cozy and content inside as the skies prepared to blanket us with snow overnight.
I found myself in conversation with a lovely new friend. She and I were comparing our geographical histories, parts of which saw us living in neighboring states for a long time. I mentioned the name of my high school, which she had heard of, and told her how much I had enjoyed my time there. She then shared with me a saying about teaching that I had never heard, despite having been a teacher for almost ten years:
“You know, they say people should teach at the grade level at which they were happiest as a student. No wonder you liked teaching high school so much.”
Hmm. I like that. And I think it applies to me and several of the teachers I know.
Don’t get me wrong: I was never miserable in elementary school, even in the dire days of seventh and eighth grade. I went to a very small Catholic school and shared a classroom with many of the same students for nine straight years. It was a safe place and a place where I felt known. I appreciated the familiarity of the people and the traditions, the Spaghetti Supper every fall and the week-long basketball tournament every February vacation. But by eighth grade, when I was one of thirteen in my class, I was ready to move on to a bigger place.
High school was a breath of fresh air for me. It was the first school I knew where learning and curiosity and trying hard were genuinely celebrated – by the teachers and most of the students. Sure, there were cliques and “popular” kids, but it was the first place where I felt like I could be myself – all aspects of myself all at once – and people liked me for it. I made friends there who know me better than any I made before or since. It was, I think, the place where I started becoming the me I am today.
I loved high school and then loved teaching it. For Husband, meanwhile, his happiest school years were in college; no wonder, if the saying my friend shared with me holds water, that he feels so fulfilled now in his career as a college professor. As I think about some of my other teacher friends, I suspect that they would say that they ended up teaching the grade that they liked best as a student.
Coincidence or axiomatic wisdom? I wonder.
I think that a lot of my readers are or were teachers – and I strongly suspect that all of my readers were kids at some point. I wonder what you think about my friend’s saying and if it’s applicable to you and the teachers you know.
At what grade level were you happiest as a student? Why?