After a tumultuous semester battling pneumonia and the recurrence of my mother’s cancerous tumor, I packed up my Hope College memorabilia and returned to my hometown, parental rules, and the familiar pink shag carpet my eleven-year-old self had loved. I wasn’t really bitter about my homecoming, as one might think. I was plagued with confusion: about life, myself, and the future–and not necessarily in that order. After a semester internship back at a middle school near Hope College, I had doubts on whether teaching was the right career path for me. During my observation days in the classroom, I barely stayed awake. I couldn’t imagine doing this every day, let alone the rest of my life. To complicate matters, my mother was not getting any better. The latest oncology report detailed something about metastasized cells and radiation with chemotherapy. I was uncertain what it all meant, but the fragile lines on my dad’s face told me it was as serious as the words sounded. By the time the snow fell in December, the beautiful Hope College campus with its lakeshore view no longer held any allure. I came home at the semester end with a big sigh, hoping to exhale the deeper emotions of uncertainty and ambivalence. Home felt like a reprieve from the disorder of my life.
Aquinas College is located in my hometown, so it made sense to resume my junior year there. My first course was taught by a middle-aged woman with bleach blonde hair, a love for the Cardinals (the baseball team–not the bird), and a fake bake that would have shamed any native Floridian. Her name was Merri Warren, and she was a past president of the Michigan Reading Association (MRA). Because of her MRA association, I was recruited during the semester to work at the annual conference as a student volunteer. Even now, I can recall the impressive scope and scale of the conference with flocks of teachers converging around the registration area. I was electrified by their chatter of books and speakers and ideas and possibilities. Their anticipation was intoxicating as I eavesdropped on folks waiting for badges and bags. Never before had I been among so many whose love for books paralleled my own. As the throngs dispersed to their speakers and sessions, I felt a stirring toward the classroom once again. There was a kindred exhilaration in the air, and I felt inspired that these people might just be my people too. For the first time, I felt the “calling” that many describe when becoming a teacher. I had found my way amidst the crowded concourse of conferees, and I was excited about all the possibilities–all thanks to Merri Warren and the Michigan Reading Association. Continue reading “Passions Are Powerful Conductors of the Future”