I substitute taught for three years and never imagined becoming a teacher. It was a comfortable position and void of all the responsibilities that being a teacher came with. I would often get curious teachers who would ask me why I didn't pursue my credential and my response was always that I didn’t want to go back to school. I mean, who wants to go back to school after they've done it already. I had obtained my bachelor's degree and thought, that's it. I also didn’t want to take on the financial burden that higher education often entails. I just thought I can't do it, it will be too hard.
The thing about substitute teaching is that it is not a stable job. When COVID hit and schools shut down, that meant that I was out of work. Now what was I supposed to do? So, I decided to “bite the bullet” and finally look into pursuing my teaching credential. After reaching out to a few teachers I knew, I eventually stumbled across Teachers College of San Joaquin. I could not believe a school like it existed. I was in awe that obtaining my credential would not “break the bank” or require me to take out a school loan.
I remember when I applied I wanted to give myself one month to adjust and prepare myself for what going back to school would entail. So I sent in my application and picked my start date for July. But, then I got a call encouraging me to start in June. This meant I only had one week before classes started. I remember being hesitant at first, but I already remember feeling that regardless of starting earlier, the circumstances still felt perfect. I couldn't believe how attainable getting my credential would actually be. So I went for it. COVID already caused a mess, what could possibly get in my way?
The day after I agreed to start my pre-service classes early was June 4th, 2020. I remember the date, it's a day I will never forget. My husband and I were eating breakfast and I got a call from my dad. Normally when my dad calls it means it's important, so I answered. He was calling to tell me that my mom had driven herself to the hospital after work because she thought she was having a heart attack. We immediately went to the hospital that she was at, although we knew that there were no visitors allowed because of a COVID. It just felt like the natural response. We eventually went home and waited. I remember she called us and put all of us siblings on the phone and I knew that meant that it was serious. They had found a mass, but didn't know what it was, or how cancerous it was. I remember that all I could think about was how I was supposed to start my pre-service classes for my credential program the next week. How was I going to be able to do that if she wasn't going to be okay? Could I still do it?
It took six weeks for my mom to get diagnosed. I did my first week of pre-service classes at home wondering if I would be able to continue the program. During my second week of classes my dad asked me to take on all of my mom's medical needs and appointments. He needed to go back to work and fortunately my pre-service classes were all online. This meant that I was able to stay at the hospital with her 24/7 and still get my work done. So I did just that. However, during her third week at the hospital she was transferred to a different hospital. This meant that she would not be local anymore and that being there for her would be a little more challenging. At this point, my mom had lost her voice and so I was the full advocate for her, speaking for her and helping to make all her important decisions. During week four of my pre-service I really began to question how much longer I could continue the program. Then it became week five and then week six. Somehow, someway I was managing it all. And when she was finally diagnosed a clearer picture was somehow painted. We finally had a game plan for my mom, and although it would not be the ideal circumstances, I thought to myself, I can do this.
I completed my pre-service courses right before my mom started her chemo treatment. The next step was to secure a teaching position so that I can start my first official year in the credential program. And I did just that, but that posed its own challenges. How was I supposed to go to teach, attend my classes, and continue to help my mom?
Every 3 weeks my mom had 1 week of chemo treatment, so I spent my time between the hospital, my parents house, and working. COVID initially led me into this new situation that I was now in, but COVID is what kept me in the game. Virtual learning and teaching allowed me the flexibility I needed to deal with my circumstances. Additionally, support from my instructors, colleagues, and family greatly impacted my outcome. What if I had quit in the beginning? Or, worse, what if I had never started?
My mom had a total of six rounds of chemo and one major surgery afterwards. She is currently cancer free with 8 months in remission. I am currently in my second year of my credential program and second year of teaching. Through my challenging circumstances, I learned that I was capable and more than able, so as long as I was willing to keep on going.I realize that everyone has unique challenges and circumstances, but I hope that by sharing my story I give you hope and inspiration. You can do it, too.