Becoming a Teacher

Finding your niche and keeping the passion.

By: Delaney F. Buechner

Do you remember your first day of college? I do.

It was fall 2011 and I had arrived at Bowling Green State University to major in adolescent to young adult education, which covered grades 7–12. I showed up nearly 45 minutes early to my first class, Introduction into Education, to choose a seat. I didn't want to appear too eager to my peers or not eager enough to my professor.

I was practically radiating nervous excitement. To me, this was it. This was the day I finally started working toward my dreams of becoming an educator.

Fast forward to 2012. I was disappointed with my major. It wasn't the education aspect—oh no, I still loved being in the classroom and working with students in any way possible. But there was something I couldn't quite put my finger on. After speaking with several professors, my advisor, and other education majors, I asked to be assigned a classroom of students much younger than the tenth- and twelfth-grade students I had been working with.

Delaney Buechner and her middle grades students.
The next semester, I walked into a fifth grade classroom and I was hooked. It was like everything had finally clicked for me; middle childhood education was where I belonged, it was where I needed to be, and it was where I knew I would make the most impact in students' lives.

Surviving the Negativity

Although I had finally found my place in the educational world, there was still one problem. It seemed as though the educational world was filled with nihilists. I like to think of myself as having pretty thick skin, but there's just something about hearing every possible negative remark about your passion that starts to wear on the nerves rather quickly.

From the time I became an education major I'd heard it all: "How will you ever make a comfortable living?" "Aren't you worried about being hurt?" "Why would you want to work such a thankless job?" "I could never be a teacher, but good luck to you." And my personal favorite: "At least you have the summers off, right?"

At first, most of the harsh "realism" came from friends, family, and students in a variety of other majors. Then it started coming from the very people I thought understood how ridiculous all the questions were: other educators. My professors at Bowling Green told us to stay out of the teachers' lounge, and for good reason. By the time I was a junior, I was walking around like a deflated balloon.

Kindred Spirits

It was during my junior year that I had a class with a middle childhood major named Kathleen. Kathleen was the president-elect of our university's Collegiate Middle Level Association chapter. I had never really thought about joining groups before, and no one had ever approached me about CMLA, but Kathleen was in love with CMLA and she wanted to share that love with anyone who seemed interested, which included me.

I eventually attended a CMLA meeting, and it didn't take long before I was signing up to travel to the Ohio Middle Level Association Conference, which was held in Columbus that year.

As I headed to the conference, I was still feeling down about the outlook of my chosen profession. If I heard someone liken it to being a glorified babysitter, I wasn't sure how much longer I could last. Many of my classmates had already changed their majors to something less stressful.

As we stepped into the hotel for the keynote address, I wondered if I was going to hear the same negativity. I hadn't researched a lot of professionals in the education field, at least not yet, and I wasn't sure what their outlook on education was. I was prepared to be disappointed. Let me tell you, I was not. It was like being hit in the face with a burst of fresh air. Everyone there was excited; they were passionate!

I could talk about all the amazing things that happened that weekend, but I would need more space. However, one thing that stuck with me from that conference was one of the keynote "presentations." I use quotation marks because it wasn't really a presentation or speech, it was more like an art performance.

I watched Rick Wormeli dance up and down the aisles, singing his remix of the Sound of Music's "Do-Re-Mi" like nothing I had ever seen before. And he was singing about differentiation. Differentiation was making me more excited about my future teaching career than I had been in months.

Getting Involved

I became as involved in CMLA as was possible. I ran for our executive board and became programs director, in charge of finding speakers for professional development meetings. I volunteered. I did everything I could to get more involved.

I was energized, I was ready to take on the world and everyone who told me that teaching wasn't a real career. I knew that no matter what anyone said, this was where I belonged.

The next year, I traveled to Kalahari in Sandusky, Ohio, for the 2014–2015 OMLA conference, where I was awarded the Kathy Hunt-Ullock scholarship, for which I had applied. That conference was just as invigorating as the previous one. I especially remember Ron Clark's enthusiastic plea to us all to be the most amazing teachers we could be.

Passion Restored

I'm now in my last year of college, doing my student teaching. I still hear talk of how the outlook for new teachers is dismal, even if the projected number of openings is higher than it's been in years. People continue to warn me that I'm going to regret my decision years down the road when I'm burned out.

But I have inspiring professors, I have a supportive cooperating mentor teacher, and I have peers who helped me find my way to CMLA, OMLA, and AMLE. These organizations restored my passion to get back on track to becoming the most effective educator possible.

I also must acknowledge my Uncle John, whose pep talks gave me endless encouragement and helped me get to this point. After all, I'm going into the most rewarding profession in the world, and the best is definitely in the middle.

Delaney F. Buechner is a senior at Bowling Green State University, completing her student teaching.

Published in AMLE Magazine, May 2016.


3 comments on article "Becoming a Teacher"

I am so glad I read this article. I am getting ready to start student teaching in January and this last semester has just been extremely stressful. I don't question if I still want to be a teacher, but I just needed to see the light in all of this stress I am experiencing. I am currently the treasurer of CMLA at the Northern Kentucky University chapter, but we just started it back up this year, so we haven't had a chance to go to any conferences or anything yet.

12/9/2016 1:23 PM

This article really hits home with me. I have previously considering changing majors and giving up on being an educator. I have not had as many people say negative comments about the profession but the what seems to be repetitive and what seem to be unnecessary university courses have discouraged me. I took a class this past semester that did such a fantastic job that I have changed my tune and have looked forward to finishing my teaching program. No matter how many times I complained about the course load or how I was feeling, seeing my professor do what he loves and in such a way that all of my classmates enjoyed being in his class, rekindled my fire of being a teacher.


12/9/2016 4:05 PM

This article is great advice for people who are stressing out about finding their niche becoming a teacher. As a student teacher currently and looking to gain my teaching certification next year I have realized I am most worried about "fitting in" with other teachers and progressing my professional journey how I want to and not based off of peer pressure. It is reassuring to read this article and realize there are many different ways to get involved and find that "niche". I hope that I can always remember my passion and the reasons that I began this journey by becoming part of a great support system.

10/27/2018 1:02 PM

Please login or register to post comments.

Related Resources

Topic Matter Experts

Bring professional learning to your school. More info...