As we kick off a new year, we're also sending our kids back to school after the break. It's a great time to share more of my story with you, the part about teaching. It has been full of surprises, and I can't wait to tell you about it.
To start, I was never attracted to the idea of teaching. All my life, I had other plans.
Until I spent 12 years staying with my four boys and became their first teacher. I grew to love those little moments when I could see in their eyes that they understood a concept for the first time–that they suddenly put together how to fit those Lego blocks just right, or could say an entire sentence correctly, or one day knew how to tie their shoelaces after months of trying. I finally understood why they call it a “light-bulb moment.” You could almost see the light inside the child turn on, the joy as they learned a new skill or mastered a new task. Their eyes practically shone when it happened. It was thrilling.
When I considered returning to the working world in my mid-thirties, I didn't originally consider teaching. But everything kept pointing back to schools and education, and as a faithful Christian who believes in what I call “God-cidences”, I thought I better listen. I tried substitute teaching to see if I even liked being around other people's children. It turned out that the light-bulb moments were even better with other kids, especially those less advantaged than my own children.
I'd always been identified as academically gifted, which culminated in a full academic scholarship to college, so I really thought I would prefer to work with students similar to myself. However, I discovered that I enjoyed working with students who needed more attention and more help. My patience had grown exponentially in that decade at home with my own children. I wanted to teach in a low-income school, to be the most use as a teacher as I could be. At home, at school, in my community–I've always believed in doing the work where it does the greatest good.
I pursued full-time teaching, completing graduate work in secondary education and student teaching. I loved every bit of it: the theory of teaching, the everyday actions of teaching, and also those special, if somewhat rare, moments when a student “got it”. It was fun and exciting for me. All of it.
The next, and biggest, surprise? The age group I enjoyed. I liked teenagers. I drew energy from junior high and high school kids…despite their hormonal craziness, goofy attitudes, and excessive attempts to be cool. I totally loved them. And I was able to love them in a meaningful way because many of them seek parental support in other places when they don't get it at home. Honestly, I felt like they were “my kids” outside my home.
I've been teaching for over six years now, and taught several thousand students, and it's still just as fun and exciting as that first year. It's become easier in some ways; I'm more seasoned at time management and questioning strategies. But in other ways, it's just as difficult. It's still hard to take a new group of 100+ kids every 12 weeks and create relationships with them. It's still hard to reach the ones who push people away. And it's still hard when bad things happen, like cheating scandals and student deaths, among other terrible things.
But is it worth it? Absolutely. I tell everyone who asks me about teaching that it's a “hills and valleys” kind of job. No day is the same. Some days are awful and you wonder why you do it. Some days are beautiful, and you can't imagine doing anything else. In the hills and the valleys, you're always serving. Serving in ways that fill emotional and educational needs, serving with an encouraging word, serving by sharing in a student's joy and growing self-confidence. Teaching is such a calling, and one I'm of which incredibly proud.
Just as I went from teaching and serving my family to teaching and serving my students, it's time to teach and serve in a larger capacity. First it was family, then classroom, and now community, with each phase equipping me for the next. If I win this political race, I'll be able to do all those things and more as Tax Assessor-Collector of Tarrant County. I'm simply being called to lead and serve adults this time–homeowners, parents, workers, and taxpayers. I have been a United States History teacher for years, teaching the unique history and principles of our country. As an elected official, I'll be able to take those principles of representation in government and serving our country, and put them into practice as I endeavor to lower our collective property tax burden. That's what I'll advocate for in this new position, should the voters see fit to choose me.