I began my career in education 13 years ago, with hopes that I would earn the credentials and experience needed to develop employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. I didn’t really have any intention of being in a traditional classroom or school for very long. I had no idea, then, the pull of the classroom and the students whose needs and interests would keep me up at night. And it’s this pull that continues to tether my heart and mind to this incredibly challenging, overwhelming, crazy-amazing job.
I Haven't Always Loved Teaching
I haven’t always, and there are certainly still days when I don’t love teaching. Nine years ago, when my son was a year old, I was exhausted, stressed, and I didn’t see how I could possibly continue to be a special education teacher, a mother, and a wife and also remain sane. So, my husband and I worked out a plan for how to pay our bills so I could walk away from my classroom and stay home with our son.
And I did just that. I left all the games, graphic novels, books and curriculum I purchased on the shelves of J-55, certain I’d never need them again. But teaching kept calling.
In the beginning, my former colleagues convinced me to write about inclusion during nap time and my graduate school professors invited me to attend conferences and present work on which we had collaborated. I thought, maybe this—writing and speaking—would be enough.
Twitter had just hit the education scene and I could tweet all day. But it didn’t fuel me. Something was missing. So, one year after I left my classroom, I found myself in a new one—with new colleagues and administrators who were patient when I didn't understand the unwritten rules of elementary education: What is that paint line on the ground for? How many bulletin boards were required?
I quickly rekindled my love for teaching. I loved helping kindergarteners with their letter sounds and the joy of first graders practicing sight word spelling on glitter gel bags.
Teaching Connects My Family With My Community
At first, I tried to establish better boundaries between home and school, but instead, I found a new companion in my classroom—my son. While I wrote IEPs, prepped materials, or cleaned my classroom, he played. And he was happy to be bribed with a treat if we could stay just a little bit longer.
When we moved to Southern California in 2013, I was lucky to be hired at a school where my colleagues and administrators also loved students and teaching. It was powerful to walk the hallways with a cadre of adults who genuinely loved kids, and together we created a second home for our students and ourselves.
My son and daughter now accompanied me to P111 on the weekends, watching movies or playing on the computer, while I created modified general education materials or wrote IEPs. They came with me to "Best Buddies" activities and learned how to communicate with a student who used an iPad to share ideas, that a ramp makes bowling accessible to everyone, and they cheered in the stands for home football games. I #LoveTeaching because it has helped me connect my own children to our community, to social justice and to inclusion.
I'll Always Be a Teacher
For the past year, I’ve been a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) supporting teachers, paraprofessionals and administrators to improve inclusive special education services. In this new role, I am discovering how to #LoveTeaching through supporting and learning alongside colleagues and watching their students explore, write and think.
I’m learning about grace, patience and community in a new and sometimes fall forward, skin your knees kind of way. Although my son insists I’m not a real teacher anymore because I don’t have a classroom, I disagree. Teaching occurs within conversations about tomorrow’s lesson, in the compassion we offer when another is hurting, and in the joy and confidence radiating from my five-year-old daughter as she invents her own stories from the picture books in her bed.
I #LoveTeaching because it can’t be contained—not within the four walls of a classroom, and not within a school building.
Megan Gross is a 2017 California Teacher of the Year and 2017 National Teacher of the Year Finalist. As an educator, she has advocated and supported students' transitions from segregated Special Day Classes, to an instructional day including general education academic and elective classes. Megan is the co-author of "The Inclusion Toolbox" and "ParaEducate." She lives in San Diego, California, ...