No, this isn’t about an old Charlie Rich song. Nor is it about anything sordid or scandalous. It is about a lack of confidence, a missing level of comfort with my own abilities. That nagging self-hatred and “less than” feeling that emerged in my early years clamped on with a vengeance as I went through college, and hung on as I entered my career.
I wasn’t one of those people who knew early on what I wanted to do with my life. At times, I wasn’t even sure I wanted my life at all. Sports were important to me and coaching was something I thought I would like to do. To be a coach, it made sense to go into teaching.
I was a good student and had generally liked school after the earliest years, especially social studies classes. When I needed to decide on a major course of study in college, I didn’t exactly run to education, but I walked with some determination.
It was easy to choose the social studies as the area in which to pursue teaching. I enjoyed many of the classes that helped me get a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science. Nothing taught me more about the actual art of teaching though than my 9 weeks of student teaching experience in the semester before I graduated.
My transcript reflected strong grades and my supervising teacher saw potential in me as well. When I finally landed my first teaching job, at my alma mater of all places, I was excited, scared, full of self-doubt; not unlike many young teachers probably feel. I worked very hard those first years, trying to stay a few steps ahead of my students, trying to create memorable and effective lessons.
It is worth noting that my first year of teaching was my last year of drinking. I wasn’t in the healthiest of places on many levels. That self-doubt showed itself in many ways. In the classroom, it often meant teaching with the door closed, otherwise someone walking by might hear my poor attempt to sound interesting or like I knew what I was doing. Over the next ten years, I did gain some confidence in the classroom, but I never fully embraced myself as a teacher. I continued to teach behind closed doors some of the time.
Coaching was a very gratifying part of my job during those years. Many of my students and athletes I coached helped teach me valuable lessons too, and helped me become more of who I was meant to become. I know I made a difference in young lives. They told me so. The difference they made in mine was significant.
When a convenient opportunity to attend graduate school came along, the time was right to pursue a career shift. I knew I wasn’t destined for decades in the classroom. I just wasn’t cut out for it. As I sought my Master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling, it became more and more clear to me that this was going to be a better fit for my strengths and demeanor.
That has only been further confirmed for me in the two years I spent as an elementary counselor, and now as a middle school counselor since 2000.
Ten years of teaching prepared me professionally in ways nothing else could have. I appreciate that I started there. My confidence level can still lag at times, but now when I am working behind closed doors it is more about confidentiality and quiet than anything else.