"The best teacher is the one who suggests rather than dogmatizes, and inspires his listener with the wish to teach himself." . E. B.-L.



Today, I ran my first ever 5K. A few months ago, if you'd have asked me if I could do this, if I could run a race without stopping, without walking, without wasting away, I would have chuckled and changed the subject. You see, I am not a "runner." I will never be a "runner." Don't get me wrong; I run. But for me, "run" is a verb. It's not an identity. It's not a part of who I am. "Runners" live in Under Armour and Saucony's. "Runners" have long, sinewy legs devoid of cellulite, taut arms and tummies, and perpetually determined looks on their faces, right? How could I ever include myself among this exclusive pack?

Except, somehow, I think I am. One race down - 31:44. A respectable time for a someone who couldn't run a half mile without stopping a month ago. On top of that, I have two more races (so far) lined up for the next few months, and a goal of a half-marathon in December. Sure, I still have some cellulite to speak of, and probably will for life, and I tend to prefer Nike to Under Armour. But I ran a race today. I finished a race today. Without stopping, without quitting, without ever even entertaining the thought that it couldn't be done. Suddenly, the whole concept is morphing in my mind. Perhaps it's more than a verb for me, this "run" word. Perhaps it's actually a growing part of my identity.

Kind of like how I'm almost a "teacher" now. (Yes, you had to know a runner/teacher analogy was well on its way.)

Over the past few months, when I've been introduced to someone new and they've asked me what it is I do for a living, I've responded with some sputtering, random variation of the following: "Well, I just finished up a year-long teaching internship and I will eventually be an English teacher." And just like that, I throw all potential recognition of how hard I worked last year, how much I've actually taught thus far, and what I have become out the window. Am I not an English teacher because I have yet to find full-time, permanent employment? Does the paycheck define me more than the work I've put in?

Well, no. Of course not. But if I say that I'm a teacher, won't people ask me where I work and what grades I teach and all sorts of perfectly logical questions that I am not currently in a position to answer? Well, yes. Of course. And then I'll eventually have to back up and tell them that actually, I don't have a "real" job yet. Granted, I'm locked in for two long-term sub positions next year, for which I interviewed and was selected from among a pool of other applicants, and for which I will be paid (although sadly not in the realm of what permanent teachers make). But still...does this count? Am I a  fraud if I call myself a "teacher"?

These are the thoughts that have been permeating my brain all summer, and they haven't been put to rest with the acquisition of the subbing opportunities. Similarly to my inner fear over calling myself a "runner" as opposed to "someone who runs," I find myself unnerved by the thought of labeling myself a "teacher." It seems ludicrous when you consider the time, money, effort, and desire I've invested in this whole thing for the last ten years, but there it is. After all this time, I just don't feel worthy yet. My whole life, I've put real teachers on pedestals, admiring their tenacity and struggles and triumphs and thus raising them to a bar that is near impossible for me to reach even now. The same way I've cruised down local surface streets just past dawn and felt pangs of inadequacy watching "runners" go by, I think of all my great "real" teacher friends, most of whom are former colleagues I've watched in action, and worry I'm sort of a fraud. "Teachers" live in comfortable shoes and drink more coffee than I ever could. Their students are devoid of wonder over where their lessons are going, they are always on top of their grading, and they know how to unjam copiers. I mean, I can teach, but I will never be a teacher. Right?

[Insert the sound of every experienced teacher letting out a hearty, collective "BWAHAHA."]

Except, somehow, I think I am. You see, being a runner and being a teacher have more in common than a required affinity for comfortable shoes. Just as the thought of myself as a "runner" has been difficult to come to, the thought of me as a "teacher" is too, because it demands a gradual change. One job offer or paycheck or similar factor does not the title create, and a little piece of me thinks that even if I had a full-time, permanent job in my dream school, I wouldn't yet feel 100% confident in using that term just yet - and that's okay. It'll come naturally, in its own time, when I feel I've sufficiently earned it. Until then, I'll continue plodding away at my training miles, increasing my pace every so slightly over a number of weeks, and eventually, I'll arrive at the first of many finish lines. Without stopping. Without quitting. And without ever entertaining the possibility that it can't be done.

Gosh, I need new shoes.


  1. Dearest Sarah,
    First I have to say just how much I admire your determination in the realm of running. I cannot count how many Mondays I have said to myself, "Let's go for a jog," and barely made it to the end of the street before wheezing and giving up on Tuesday. Bravo on the completion of your 5k!
    Secondly, we are all "real" teachers now not only because someone has decided that we are all capable of doing this awfully difficult job on our own, but because we know it is what we want to do with the rest of our lives. I had the opportunity to go to my district's new teacher orientation where the superintendent gave some really encouraging words. He said in these times, schools can only afford to choose the very best employees they can get. It does not matter if they are administrators, full-time, part-time, long term subs, lunch ladies or whatever other position was open. All I could think about is all of you back in Michigan fighting for so many jobs and I know they chose you out of so many because they felt you were the best fit. Don't let your pay title determine how much or how little of a teacher you are because believe me I still feel odd about being the only one in the room with a bunch of crazy kids. I know you will be great and the kids will think so too. :)
    Katie P.

  2. Sarah,

    Before I go into anything else, you are due so BIG congratulations on that 5K! My boyfriend runs, so I know (well, I am aware of, at least. I don't think I'd truly know until I did it myself, which frankly is unlikely to happen) how much dedication this sort of accomplishment comes out of. SO much admiration from me.

    Of course, it probably comes as no surprise that now I am going to say that I feel you on the "almost" a teacher thing. Thank you for voicing this conflict that I think many new teachers have, and that I think many veteran teachers might even feel at different points in their careers. You're so right that this is all part of a gradual change. We're all going to spend a lot of time in the near future evolving into the teachers we want to be, striving to prove to ourselves and various others that we are what we want to say we are. And the next step in that for many of us is certainly that first permanent job, whether it's already set in contractual stone or not. I have to second Katie P., though, in her assertion that you are a "real" teacher now. I have confidence that you are going to impact your students this year in so many positive ways. They will always remember you as their very real teacher, because the most important thing about you to them will never be the nitty-gitties of your employment. And I'm willing to bet that you'll find that, someday very soon, your colleagues may even revere you for your own copier repair skills. :D