The inspiration for my blog name came from an essay that I had to include as part of my application to the Faculty of Education. The essay must have been what they were looking for because I was offered acceptance at both the U of M and the U of W! Writing the essay helped me to realize that my journey has all been a part of God's plan. I just have to be patient and see where He leads me next. I came to the conclusion that taking the long way around isn't necessarily a bad thing and, in fact, the "scenic" route may even be more enjoyable! : )
There are many paths to reach a single destination and my journey to this point has had many twists and turns. When I finished high school in 1994, my goal was to become an Elementary School Teacher. It was an honour to receive acceptance letters from both the University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba. I decided to pursue my degree at the University of Manitoba because at the time, it was the only institution where I could complete the entire degree. By the time I entered the faculty, I had over six years experience as a babysitter for more than 30 families and had spent the last two years volunteering as a Sunday School teacher. I had also spent time working with children as a St. Amant volunteer, camp counsellor, day camp leader, working as a clown, and teaching at a Wednesday night club for girls. Although I enjoyed working with many different age groups, I had a particular interest in working with the early years students and I knew that a career in Elementary Education was the right path for me.
My experience as a student teacher reaffirmed my desire to become a teacher. My first term of teaching, under the guidance of the person who had once been my grade two teacher, I experienced the safe and familiar environment of the private Christian school which had once been my own. It was my first real taste of life as a school teacher and it was wonderful. After achieving success in a familiar territory, I was reluctant and apprehensive when my second placement was in an inner city school. However, the opportunity to work with a fantastic co-operating teacher allowed me to move beyond my pre-conceived ideas and my interaction formed close relationships with the students. This opportunity proved to be a valuable experience and I was grateful for the chance to challenge myself, confront my prejudice, and to conquer my fears of what an inner school looked like.
In my second year of the program, family problems involving my parents and a delinquent sibling, forced me to make the difficult choice to move away from home. Determined keep up with all of my activities despite my situation, I did not give up teaching Sunday School or the Wednesday evening girl’s club. Financial obligations forced me to take a second job and to begin tutoring a grade five student, in order to pay for my rent and food. One of the biggest mistakes I made during this time was to spread myself too thin. The unfortunate casualty from this mistake was my academic performance because it became a low priority in my long list of responsibilities. It is difficult to regret moving away from home because moving out saved my sanity, but the grades I received from that term still haunt me. If only transcripts came with an explanation clause!
I married my high school sweetheart between my second and third year of classes. Shortly before the wedding, I accepted a position for a before and after school co-ordinator at a local elementary school. I was in charge of running the entire program and managing the administrative responsibilities. The position required an enormous amount of responsibility since I was in charge of the fee collection and I was a key holder. I was often the first person to enter the school and one of the last ones to leave. The role of co-ordinator, together with my experiences as a student teacher, solidified my desire to make teaching my career. My husband and I relocated closer to the school, which was also near the University of Manitoba, and I prepared to enter another year of classes. The stress of the financial burden lifted because my husband and I now shared the household responsibilities. I was prepared to work diligently to make up for the unsatisfactory grades I had received the previous term. However, unforeseen circumstances put my formal education on hold.
The summer before I entered my third year of the Education program, I learned I was pregnant. Knowing that my own children would be the most important “students” I would ever be able to teach, I made the decision to be at home with them. It was a difficult choice and yet it was the most rewarding decision of my life. The most important thing I learned from my time away from university is that children can also be “teachers”. My children have taught me incredible patience, passionate persistence and determination, and an enthusiasm for learning that comes from the desire to know more. I plan to use what my children have taught me, in my classroom, and I know it will make me a better teacher.
Throughout my time away from school, I continued to work with children in various capacities. When my daughter was born, I started babysitting for a family with three children and I worked with this family three days a week until I became pregnant with my second child. I taught a preschool Sunday School class for over four years and spent one year teaching a junior high girls class. As my children started school, I was actively involved in their classrooms as a parent volunteer. During this time, we also hosted a Chinese International Student through the University of Manitoba Homestay program. It was a wonderful experience for our family and it expanded our knowledge and created a better understanding of another culture. I also published my first manuscript during this period. My story was chosen, from over the 2,500 submitted, to appear in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. As I reflect back over my time away from classes, I realize that though my formal education had ceased, I still found the opportunity to learn more.
In May 2004, three children and ten years after my high school graduation, I returned to the University of Manitoba, to complete what I had started. Determined not to make the same mistakes as my last year of schooling, I was careful to not overextend myself again. I was acutely aware of my priorities, making sure that this time they are not inferring with my academic success. My classes and term assignments have been a priority and the evidence is in my high academic grades since my return to school. Balancing family responsibilities and homework, my own and my children’s, has had its challenges but I believe my ability to prioritize and balance many tasks will only make me better prepared for the classroom.
It is important to me that my schedule still includes volunteering in my children’s classroom and in their activities. I have attended my children's school Parent Advisory Council meetings. One of the most enjoyable volunteering experiences that I have been involved with was working as a small group leader in the kindergarten phonological awareness program for my daughter’s class. Motivating the children and helping them grasp the reading skills that they will use for the rest of their lives was very rewarding.
As I evaluate my leadership skills, I believe that my earliest experience in a leadership role came from the recognition by one of my teachers. When I was in grade nine, a shortage of adult volunteers prompted the need for dependable students to assume the role of supervising the elementary school patrols. I was among the four students chosen for this responsibility. At fourteen years old, I was probably one of the youngest people on the payroll of the School Division. My leadership abilities were also recognized by one of my former teachers last February. My son was attending the Preschool where one of my previous teachers still facilitates the Family Studies program. In the program, high school students take an active role in the preschool for high school credit. I worked with the teacher in the program when I was in grade eleven and twelve and she remembered my leadership abilities in the classroom. When the preschool teacher quit unexpectedly, I was asked to assume the position until a long-term replacement could be found. I am confident that my leadership abilities will be recognized and a valuable asset to the classroom.
My leadership abilities have extended to my passion for cooking. I have taken a leadership role by becoming a forum host for the Cooking on a Budget/Once a Month Cooking Forum on the website www.recipezaar.com. My duties include answering questions, starting discussion topics, and working together with the owners of the site to maintain order in the community forums. I have enjoyed this role for the last two years. My love of cooking has also encouraged me to become involved with our Church Kid’s Club, where I plan for, and teach, a grade 1-6 girls cooking class once a week. Each week averages almost 30 participants and the program allows me to combine my interest in cooking while also working with the age group that I enjoy. The experience that I have gained over the last two years will be invaluable in my future career.
When I started this journey, I did not know how the path would change and chart a new course. The mistakes that I have made have become the tools I use to ensure that I do not make the same mistakes again. Although the path may have changed, the one thing that has remained constant is my desire to become a teacher. I hope that I can use the knowledge that I have gained along the way to become a more effective teacher and better prepared for the classroom than I was thirteen years ago. My goal for my children, and all my future students, is for them to see that a change in the path does not have to mean the end of the journey. Perhaps the most important lesson I can pass on, is that you can still reach your destination, even if you take the long way around!