It all started 56 years ago with a brown paper sack. This no-frills carrier contained a stash of glue, crayons, scissors, and strips of construction paper. These were my teaching tools. According to my mother, I carried this sack with me everywhere. Naturally drawn to showing and explaining things, I later graduated to using a small chalkboard. When our cat had kittens, they became my pupils, though admittedly they were less attentive than my stuffed animals.
My first encounter with teaching actual students came in ninth grade. Some type of ailment swept through the high school faculty, and two of my teachers (algebra and Latin) left instructions for the substitute teachers to have me teach the daily lessons, such as going over the homework and explaining new skills or content. As scared as I was initially, this fortuitous experience served to hook me on teaching. To help someone understand something was thrilling. Explaining a concept well felt good, but that was only the tip of the teaching iceberg. When I became a full-fledged teacher, I quickly learned there was much more involved.
My first paid teaching position came when I was 22 years old. While I loved the subject—Latin—and the high school where I taught, I found teaching difficult. I cried at least once a week and wanted to quit every month. Now, 39 years later (29 of those in higher education), I tear up thinking about leaving this amazing profession of education.
As a way to encourage others along their teaching path, I developed 13 short narratives to present some practical insights into a teaching life and offer support to other teaching professors. The questions at the end of each section can be used for individual reflection and for discussion in small faculty groups. Enjoy reading, reflecting, and sharing.
Click the cover image to download “Teaching Through the Seasons: Perspectives from a Retiring Professor.”
Now in her second year of phased retirement, Dr. Patty H. Phelps has taught at the University of Central Arkansas in the Department of Teaching and Learning for 29 years. Follow her @edprof1300.