Full Circle

Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I played school from my first day of kindergarten until I was . . . way too old to be playing school. I never wavered in my desire to be in the front of the classroom.

Jo-Lynne “teaching” circa 1976

I went to college, majored in Elementary Education, and loved every moment of my student teaching assignments.

When I graduated, finding a job was not easy. I did some substitute teaching, I did some temporary office work, and I did a short stint as a preschool daycare teacher. Nothing was fulfilling, though. I almost gave up and took a long-term office job. Then, it happened.

Finally, after three years of doing odd jobs and wanting desperately to have my own classroom, I landed a job as a third grade teacher at a private Christian school in New Jersey. The pay rate was downright insulting, but I didn’t care. I happily drove over toll bridges and across state lines five days a week to that bright yellow classroom that was mine, all mine. Those two years teaching third grade were some of the happiest of my life — exhausting and draining but thoroughly fulfilling. I was in my element.

When we found out we were expecting our first baby, I knew that I wouldn’t return to teaching right away. The hours were too rigorous, the drive too far, and the pay too little to justify keeping my job. I was delighted to become a mama, but it was with a heavy heart and not just a few tears that I packed up my classroom that humid June day back in 1999. I placed those boxes full of books and other teaching paraphernalia in our attic, thinking that perhaps I would need them again some day.

Now I know that I will probably never open those boxes again. In fact, I’m not sure they even made it through The Move of 2005 — The Move that brought us to where we live today.

Three kids and six years after giving up my classroom, we started a new life in a new area — new neighborhood, new church, new schools. And for me? A new career path, although I had no idea at the time that the little online journal I started as a place to share our life with friends and family from afar would become so much more. I couldn’t have even imagined the possibilities I was creating when I opened that account on Windows Live Spaces in March of 2006 and jotted down my very first blog post.

Now it’s part journal, part lifestyle magazine, and full-time job. Or at least, it has provided me with enough projects to create a full-time job, even though not all of my work is directly blog-related at this point in time. (Although it probably could be!) This little space on the internet has brought me a horde of amazing opportunities and some of the most fun I’ve ever had.

And yesterday, it brought me full circle — right back to an elementary school classroom.

I drove to my kids’ school where I stood in front of three classrooms of sixth graders and shared with them what I do and how I got here.

They have all started blogs as a part of a class assignment (which I think is super cool) and are being encouraged to branch out and write about what interests them, in addition to the schoolwork that is part of the project. I shared how I got started and explained how the space has evolved, and then I talked to them about the importance of writing daily to develop their skills and hone their writer’s voice. I told them about some of the fun opportunities I’ve had and showed them pictures of celebrities that I’ve met. They were most impressed with Bullseye — the Target dog. Go figure!

It was exhilarating, terrifying, and so much fun. I loved answering their questions and hearing about what interests them. I hope I inspired at least a few of them to try out blogging. If not, at least I got a chance to be in front of a classroom again!