Are You a Teacher? Or, Are You a Nurse? I am Both.

Some Background on Two Professions

Today, I’m reposting a blog from several years ago. It follows this newer addition. There are many reasons for the repost, one of which is I wrote my Friday poetry post yesterday morning, on Thursday. After posting, I realized I was a day off. Again, there are many reasons for being a day off and I understood why I had been temporarily confused. So, I started this post instead.

Over the last few days, I’ve had time to relive my early professional days. For five years, fresh out of my baccalaureate nursing program, I was an intensive care nurse. I worked in two Neonatal Intensive Care Units with premature and sick babies. It was intense and challenging work, which was both joyful and immensely sad at times.

Along with working full time, I entered graduate school to obtain an advanced degree in child health, as well as receive preparation to become a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP). Eventually, I held national certification in this role and worked at some prestigious institutions such as Johns Hopkins Hospital. Eventually, I left the field of nursing altogether, reinventing myself in middle as as an environmental educator. Still, because two level III neonatal intensive care units were my first jobs as a professional, I hold them close to my heart.

Intensive care is intense. There are monitors and machines, with whooshing noises of the ventilators and and alarms of the cardio-respiratory monitors. There are beeps from the IV machines – now all digital – and staff all coming in to poke at prod at different hours of the day (and probably night).

Visiting hours are limited, as they should be. There is enough stimulation in intensive care as it is. A constant stream of visitors in any ICU setting is never a good idea. Unfortunately, I’ve realized I’m comfortable in an ICU. The alarms don’t cause me alarm, the sounds are all background noise and un-intrusive to my thoughts, some of which are now silent prayers.

I believe I was meant to teach – I think it is a calling. But, being a nurse is a calling as well. Both are callings especially in the period of time in which we live today. I’ve watched the ICU staff through different eyes than I had when I was one of them. They are intelligent, committed, caring individuals working at a team for the benefit of their patients, just as teachers work as part of a team to benefit both their individual students and class as a whole.

Two great professions. I am proud to be grounded in each. I am both a nurse and a teacher.

Repost: Are you a Teacher?

A post from May of 2017

Today, I discovered something about myself. I have a very difficult time calling myself a teacher! While at the local copy store this morning, getting my third grade writer’s circle student newspapers made from the mock-up, the clerk said, “You must be a teacher.” She was looking at the student work on the 11 x 26 inch double-sided page I had given her in order to obtain ten copies.  It was more of a question than a statement in the way she asked me. I was taken aback by my response.

“Well, I’m really a nurse who likes to teach,”  I replied, before realizing what I was saying.

What?! My brain silently screamed, as I stood there looking back at the clerk. A nurse? You phony! You haven’t been a nurse in almost twenty years!

Then, I realized that I almost said, “I’m a wanna be teacher.”  That much at least would have been true!  I  have wanted to be a teacher as long as I can remember.  Believe it or not, there were no available teaching jobs when it was my time to go to college in the early 80’s. Tenured teachers were being laid off. Who wants to spend four years in college to not have a job when you are finished? Instead, I chose nursing; there were jobs.

But, you know, I am a teacher. I have taught hundreds of  elementary students over the last twelve years as a garden club leader. I now have thirty-six students who have participated in writer’s circle with me over the last six years. I am a teacher. Why can’t I tell a stranger that?

It must be some weird adherence to the social norm of what a “real” teacher is.  A real teacher has a license, a real teacher has a classroom, a real teacher grades student work, and a real teacher is not told they need 3 years of additional undergraduate work (on top of baccalaureate and master’s degrees in nursing and another half-finished graduate degree in environmental education) to be one.  A real teacher gets a paycheck (although, some would argue that it is not enough). No, I don’t have those things. So, I must not be a “real” teacher.  I cannot say that I am.

But, wait a minute. I have students who are not assigned to me by administration, but elect to come to my enrichment groups. I have students who do the work I ask them to do  and give it to me to receive my feedback.  I have students I care about. I have students who care about me.  I have loads of people who think of me as a teacher. Then, why can’t I say it?

My response this morning was a revelation for myself. It was a kind of personal wake up call. If I do not say I am a teacher – then, I am the one thinking I am not one. This stops today.  I should not define myself by another educator introducing me as a “parent who does a lot of things.”  I should not define myself by the lack of a license.  I should not define myself by the lack of a formal classroom or title.  I know what I am; I am a teacher!  The next time some stranger asks, that is what I will reply.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go meet my writer’s circle students. We are celebrating the creation of their third grade newspaper and I am their teacher!

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

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