It's Day 15 of the Slice of Life Story Challenge, started by Two Writing Teachers. I am writing around the theme topic of "What I Know For Sure." (See Day 1 for a full explanation.)
Parent/Student Book Club at the Cincinnati Zoo for The One and Only Ivan, where my love of teaching and animals came together for a day!
My mom was an elementary teacher, and I enjoyed helping her set up her classroom, grading objective quizzes, and hearing all about her students and lessons. She loved her job, and I wanted to feel the same passion for my career some day as she felt for hers. I just didn't want to be a teacher. I wanted to be a veterinarian.
When I was a young girl, I would set up all my stuffed animals, a pretend waiting room and office, and a meticulously decorated sign that said "Welcome to Dr. Maasen's Veterinary Clinic" in our basement. I would wear a stethoscope around my neck, stick plastic toy syringes in the pocket of my doctor's smock (which was an apron), and proceed to treat the various ailments my stuffed animals suffered from. When I got to high school, one of my jobs was working at Dr. Johnson's veterinary office in town. My duties included weighing the animals as they came in, getting them into a room, and taking their temperature; THAT was not a fun job, but I didn't mind it - I was just thrilled to be working there. I would clean exam rooms and animal cages, walk dogs, and fill prescriptions. I loved it.
When I entered Miami University, I declared zoology as my major, with the plan of going to The Ohio State for veterinary school. I applied and got an assistant's position at Dr. McGrew's office in Oxford. He was a wonderful mentor. I had a similar job description as the one I held in my hometown, but he also let me observe and help in surgeries. Again, I loved it. I couldn't wait to go to work in the evenings and on Saturday mornings.
Then came chemistry, biology, and zoology classes. There were experiments to set up and perform, cats to dissect, and an endless list of things to memorize and learn. I was completely inept. I had taken advanced sciences in high school and really enjoyed them, getting As and Bs. However, for various reasons, I was not at all prepared for those college classes, even FAILING zoology (why I didn't drop the course before I actually failed, I don't know)! By the end of sophomore year, with my plummeting GPA, I knew I needed to change my major and fast. I knew that "loving animals" was not enough to succeed in this field. Instead of being devastating, I took it as an opportunity to do what I knew I had more aptitude for and loved even more than animals: study literature. I became an English Literature major.
I LOVED being a lit major. NOW I was in just the right element. I enjoyed my classmates, professors, and the class material. I read all the classics, wrote many papers, and participated in stimulating and wonderful conversations about the humanities. THIS was what I was born to do. Now, instead of failing, my professors were using my papers and exam answers as examples for the class. I was taking creative writing, philosophy, and author and period study courses. If I could have figured out how to get paid for being an English Literature major for the rest of my life, I would've discovered the key to happiness.
Then I had to graduate and get a job. WHAT would I do with an English Literature degree? When I look back on this time, I wonder how/why my parents didn't have heart attacks. They had to have known that I wouldn't know what to do when I graduated. Were they at home wringing their hands and shaking their heads while I tried to figure out my life? I don't know. I only knew that they seemed calm, cool, and collected, and they didn't try to intervene. They let me figure it out for myself. What an amazing parental example they were! Maybe they just knew life would reveal itself somehow. Maybe they just prayed A LOT.
After much consideration and many conversations and revelations, I decided to go to graduate school and become an elementary teacher. Miami University has a Master of Arts in Teaching degree in which you get your certification and Master's in teaching at the same time. I was getting married the summer of my senior year, and Ed was also in graduate school (for many of the same reasons I was going to go). He is a year older than me, so he would be finishing up his first year. He had an assistantship as a head resident. It paid for this MBA and gave him a stipend. He also had a great little apartment in one of the halls, complete with housekeeping service and dining hall privileges! I ended up getting an assistantship with the admissions office, which also paid for my graduate school. We were so fortunate to start out that way. It was a lot of fun!
Once I started methods classes and education courses, I knew I had made the right decision. I marveled at how things turned out. I was so adamant that I didn't want to become a teacher and was so determined to be a veterinarian, and yet, there I was. I know it would be a better story if I had wanted and dreamt about being a teacher all my life (that was my mom's story), but my story is that teaching found me in spite of my protestations. Instead of pursuing teaching, it pursued me. God knew my future - I just had to figure it out along the way.
I ended up getting my first teaching job in my hometown where my mom was still teaching at the time - how is that for full circle? Those five years in Mason and then eight years in Lebanon weren't all rosy - there were times, believe me, when I questioned what the heck I was thinking, but after another amazing turn of events (written about here), I've landed in my dream job - teaching gifted language arts. My job is now my passion, and my passion is now my job. This morning I read a this blog post and this blog post by my students, and if that's not confirmation that I was supposed to do this all along, I don't know what is.
What I Know For Sure: Life is a journey that doesn't always go in the direction you planned. God's plans are always better than our own. And when a job and passion combine, you are truly blessed.