By Stephanie Ball
My life, for the past three years, revolved around 22 6-year-olds. In case of an emergency, I absentmindedly stuffed Band-Aids, stickers and tissues into my pockets. It seemed spilled milk and the missing forest-green crayon were as important as the latest Justin Bieber song.
This environment demanded my dedication, patience and tears, and it almost stole my sanity.
In high school, I was torn between a career in journalism and teaching. I ultimately decided to teach because I wanted to help others and make a difference in children’s lives.
I attended Texas Tech University, where I graduated with a degree in early childhood education. I endured the long hours of student teaching and chalked up my friends’ comments that teaching was just coloring and borders to jealousy and moved on. When I graduated, the economy was similar to the conditions of today.
I accepted a first-grade teaching position at a low-income elementary school that required me to work with English language learners. I started the year with excitement, hope and a little fear. My advice for future educators is never to let children know you are nervous because, like dogs, they smell fear.
Among the three classes I taught, my first group of kids helped to mold me into a better teacher and person.
However, during the third year of teaching, I had the most outspoken, undisciplined and academically challenged group of children.
Teachers would often stop me in the hall to ask how I managed to keep the kids under control. The truth is that this class drained me emotionally and physically, but by the end of the year they changed for the better. They could read, write and walk quietly down the hall.
As I gave the kids hugs and sent them along their way with their backpacks bouncing up and down, I choked up. I wanted to move on, away from this school and from these kids who caused my tears and frustration. I was leaving a part of me behind in those kids and hoped I gave them the foundation they needed.
My Ford Escape was packed from floor to ceiling with classroom supplies I was going to put in storage for what I thought would only be a few months. I realized after many interviews that it was my turn to go back to school.
Some of my friends thought I was crazy, but I knew I needed to pursue another career. I could not see myself teaching until retirement. I decided the Brookhaven College journalism classes were the way to go, and I have not looked back once.
I have been fortunate to learn from Daniel Rodrigue, an experienced and talented professor who has taught me more than I thought possible. I have never met anyone who is more energetic and dedicated than Rodrigue. He has helped to enhance my writing style and has given me the confidence that I can succeed.
I have been honored to work with an amazing adviser, Rori Harrington, and the Courier staff. We are each our own unique and sometimes off-beat puzzle piece, and we all fit together. I cannot begin to say how much I have learned from the staff.
Every day I had the opportunity to meet with someone new. I will carry the stories, expressions and warm gestures of everyone I have interviewed and met at Brookhaven with me. As I put away my articles and prepare for my master’s degree, I realize everyone I will encounter has a story with a teachable moment.
I may decide to unpack the crayons and stickers one day, but for now, I am ready to embrace the start of something new.