Long before my career shifted toward business and leadership coaching, I enjoyed many years as a High School English Teacher. I was one of a dedicated community of teachers pushing the terrain of learning outside the classroom onto the ski slopes or into the High Sierras as we backpacked for days packed. I watched time after time how the kids took risks and warmed to successes making dinner lakeside or working with a partner to assemble a tent. Our time together was about the experience that confirms that wisdom and “smarts” aren’t limited to the classroom.
Being in the moment where learning happens in real time kindled a flame in me of curiosity that I willfully fanned to spread flames among my students. My job was to notice the teachable moments and build on them, to help students find the lucky penny on the street and grab it. With these students—50 in the whole high school and I was the sole English teacher for a couple of years—I was on my learning edge, learning by doing the whole spectrum of work that every teacher faces daily. It was a challenging job in many respects, and one that fulfilled me deeply for a long time.
When I decided to go into the field, I thought only of how the work would improve me as a person and by extension, allow me to support the growth of countless students who I had the pleasure of working with. That was true. With every new year and passing day, we continued on a journey of self-discovery that consistently pressed us out of our comfort zones and into a zone of mutual learning by collaborating, sharing and daring together.
In the joy of my experience of teaching is the underlying intention that drove my success: I will be a kind, patient and compassionate teacher who leads with love and champions her students’ potential ferociously.
My choice to teach was an expression of my conviction that to teach was to learn to connect to myself and my students authentically, and in effect, be a better person and one day a great mom as a result.
I believed that because my relationship with my mom was so fraught with criticism and misunderstandings, that somehow I would show up that way with my own children. I feared the tiger within me that was unrestrained and fiercely willful. That belief haunted me, even at a young age. I felt left adrift in the sea of life without equipment to set a clear course and make my dreams of being a great mom impossible to reach.
At the time I know what I valued—learning and self-improvement, service for higher good, integrity, strong body and loving heart, intimate connection, fun and play and adventure outdoors—but I didn’t know how to understand the meaning of the sum of the parts.
The fear that played a part in my choice to go into teaching was characterized by never knowing a different or better way of being with children. I craved to cultivate curiosity and connection through compassion and encouragement to dare to be courageous. Teaching gave me a field to play and experiment with what worked best. My primary mission was to grow the heart and minds of my students by encouraging their passion and curiosity to thrive.
My parents did their best for my brother and me. I don’t begrudge them for their efforts. Neither of them had the best role models in their own parents. The cycle continues unless we consciously intend to stop it.
With the aspirations to grow others and myself simultaneously it was with joy that I endeavored to take back my heart and mind from fear to agency.
My choice to be a teacher was one of the best decisions of my life. It was one of the most important examples of how I consciously chose to honor all my values in my choice my profession. It was also one of the first times that I consciously aligned my choice in the moment with a vision I felt alive to in the distant future.
The moment I said “Yes!” to teaching and quit my stop-gap-measure gig for what I really wanted to make happen, I had a sense that the Universe said “Let’s do this!” right back, because weeks later I met the man I would later marry who still is and will forever be the love of my life. At the time, he was a teacher too, and the hand bell choir director. Lucky for me, I took the sound advice of my new professors and arranged to observe the man teach.
We still laugh over sweet Jasmine with her voluminous curly hair who shouted out unexpectly from her seat the first day of my visit as I sat quietly in the back of the classroom, “Mr. Post! Mr. Post! It that your girlfriend?!”
I remember the song of her voice as she landed her question that was equal parts pure curiosity and playful sport. I blushed and looked for his reaction. I imagine now that he wiggled at the front of the class under the watchful eyes of the whole class. I felt I was right where I was meant to be, in resonance with the world around me.