By Pam Devers, Pryor High School Chemistry and Physics Teacher, as well Teach Oklahoma Educator
I felt drawn to teaching in the eighth grade. My best friend’s mom worked at the front office of the junior high and would take me home after school. While waiting, I watched the teachers having so much fun. I have always like science, but that year I had a teacher who really inspired me. He later became my intern mentor, a peer and a friend. I took all the science and math in high school and never strayed from my goal. It did take a couple of years working in an industrial park lab before a non-coaching job opened in my area. In retrospect I am thankful for the two lab years of experience and growing time before teaching high school. It made me appreciate the teaching jobs I would have later.
There are so many highlights that have evolved during the past 30 years in my classroom, most come as little moments. The warm, fuzzy times have been a comment that warmed my heart, a sweet note, a fun joke between a student and myself, laughs during a lab or messed up demonstration, or even intense learning on marker boards. They just all add up and are distributed at just the right moments.
Teaching is not for everyone. We have all had teachers who just ticked off the minutes until the ring of that last bell. Going into teaching is a calling. You have to learn to be a flexible multi-tasking person who always has a “Plan B” up your sleeve. The main thing is to have a love for young people embracing their unique qualities.
In my experience, teaching has been the best career. I get to decide my day and hang out with kids whom I enjoy that keep me young or some days remind me I am not. You have weekends, holidays, snow days, and summer off which is more than most jobs. I have learned to ask for grants for my classroom. I have also traveled to conferences all around the U.S., Canada, and Japan. My husband, Cash, is a retired teacher and with our combined teaching salaries we have never been in need, which is a true blessing.
I have one classroom rule and my kids all know it because I say it all throughout the year- Be kind to one another. I use this to explain how problems happen when we are not kind, which we see daily in the news. For me showing kindness and teaching it with a little sass along with holding kids accountable is how I make a difference. Another teacher might have a separate aim, but that is wonderful how together teachers can bring many variables to a student while they mold themselves into the person they are to become…just like the eighth grader who watched and wanted to have fun and has done that for the past 30 years.