A little girl, a tiny thing not even 3 years old, with a pipsqueak voice and a determined look on her face, arranges all her stuffed animals in to chairs and puts books on their laps. Then she sets up more chairs and brings her family members in. She commands them to sit down, puts a book in their lap, and points at them one at a time to read from their book. "Okay, now it's your turn!" as she authoritatively squeaks her agenda at them. This was just the beginning.
I have wanted to be a teacher my entire life. And I became one. And now I am leaving the field of being a classroom teacher to pursue my passions and dreams. Yes, what I have always wanted to do, what I went to college for and got my degree in, what I spent grueling hours studying and testing for to get my credential, is not part of my life anymore as I know it. But I'm still that little girl with a determined look on my face. I'm going for it now, to really make my dreams a reality, and to create my own life the way that I only see it now in my visions and daydreams.
The "teacher" role has occupied the majority of my adult life. At 17 I took Careers with Children and spent the first 2 hours of my high school day in a preschool classroom. I loved it, it was easy, fun, the kids were cute, and I felt natural and comfortable with the other teachers and even talking to the parents. At 19 I started my first job working at a preschool, The Little Mud Puddles. This school holds a special place in my heart. It was where I really fell in love with teaching and working with young children. From there college and a degree in Elementary Education happened. A precursor class to student teaching in 4th grade had me loving those kids so much and I thought I wanted to work with older students. Then I student taught in first grade and found my home. My student teaching mentor was the best thing that ever happened to me in my entire education. Some days I felt victorious and successful. Other days I bawled my eyes out because it was just so damn hard. But I loved it, and I pushed through and came out on the other side ready. I had my first job teaching elementary school at that same school in rural Idaho, teaching first grade. I was given the classroom that had had teacher turnover every year. Each year, the teacher who occupied that room had left the school, leaving it open for the new fresh meat to come in. Not me! I was determined to be there forever. Then halfway through the school year my husband got a job offer in LA. He moved, I finished out the school year, and then moved to Southern California to join him. I'm wondering if that classroom is still experiencing that same phenomenon today.
Moving to Southern California brought its own unique challenges. I ended up teaching kindergarten at a preschool that had one "upper level" class. The parents and kids made that place enjoyable and fun. Everything else about it was less than desirable. Poor management, a broken philosophy, and little to no consideration or appreciation for the staff. I didn't feel like a professional teacher anymore. But I loved the kids, and their parents were stellar, and really made it worth waking up and setting my foot in the door every morning. Another wake up call in the form of my husband being let go from his job due to cut backs had me leaving my job again. This time I did not wait it out until the end of the school year. I wanted out of there as quick as possible, so I left.
I manifested my most recent teaching experience long before I even knew it existed. I told my husband that I wanted to work somewhere part time where I felt like a true professional, had all the teaching breaks off, and it needed to be a school with a sound philosophy that aligned perfectly with my teaching style. And I found it, probably a year after I had declared that to him and the universe.
I spent 5 years at my little preschool as a Young 5's teacher. I was moving down the age ladder! First grade, kinder, then Young 5's. That was the youngest I'd go, you couldn't get me back in a preschool program unless the pay was a million dollars. Haha, and we all know how well teachers get paid!! My first few years, I really loved it. I had a co-teacher who I clicked with immediately and we made an awesome team, Team A in fact (surprise, her name starts with A as well). I started noticing some patterns that disgruntled me and I felt frustrated and a little helpless. I was wondering why these kids were coming in harder and harder to teach. They were becoming more stubborn, more brash, more independent, less willing to try new things, they were bored. What was going on!?!? My last 2 years were really, really difficult, for reasons I will leave unspoken. Families were hard to communicate with. I didn't like that I had to sugar coat everything. Can't I just tell them "Your kid just isn't interested in what we're doing!" or "They really seem to be angry all the time and they're taking it out on their peers". Why couldn't I just be honest with them? Why were parents so defense and unwilling to see who their children really were??
In my "real" life, I started immersing myself in holistic health and wellness. I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and became a health coach. I was enthralled, overtaken, obsessed, intrigued, consumed, by health and wellness. My passion for teaching began to dwindle. I had my own success in transitioning from the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) to a whole foods, gluten/dairy/soy/refined sugar free diet. It took some time, but I never thought it was hard. And the amazing health benefits I was experiencing, including getting off medication I took for 18 years, was enough motivation to keep me going!!
At this same time, I really started to put the pieces together. I began to really become disgusted with the lunches I was seeing my students eat. Processed meat full of nitrates, fillers and MSG. Processed dairy with food dye, aspartame or sucralose (both artificial sweeteners), and stored in plastic tubes with a 3 year expiration, empty calories in the form of refined carbohydrates like crackers and cookies, inflammatory foods like wheat ... it was all too much!! I am not a scientific person. I have studied enough anecdotal evidence to know that when parents change the food their children eat, their children change. They become calmer, more even in their temperament, they can focus more, they are happier, they don't have mood swings and tantrums. I even experienced this as I changed my own diet. I used to be a hormonal roller coaster with crazy mood swings. I found that all of that dwindled and completely went away when I ate a whole foods diet. I felt more balanced and stable. If it can happen to adults, why can't it happen to kids??
The food like stuff that is marketed to children is toxic and poisonous. Our bodies are not supposed to eat cakes with a pound of refined sugar, a pound of butter from corn fed cows, and a pound of food dye that contains chemicals that are known to be neurotoxins. This is not normal, it's not natural, and I'm determined to do something out it!!
I believe that all my years as a teacher has led me to this point, to this bigger purpose on a grand scale. It is now my goal, focus and intention to get in to as many homes as possible to teach children and their families about healthy foods, to empower them to know that their bodies are incredible, living, breathing, thinking pieces of nature that need to be fed extremely nutritious food and need to be taken care of holistically. I am now taking all that I have learned as a teacher, and all that I have learned as a holistic health coach, and combining my efforts to be a children's health and wellness educator and advocate. Our children are our future. This planet is going to face massive change in the next 50 to 100 years. One of those changes HAS TO BE THE WAY WE EAT! Food like stuff created in a lab IS NOT FOOD! Fresh vegetables and fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, grass fed and pasture raised meat and eggs, fermented dairy like raw cheese and kefir, and healthy fats NEED to become the NEW Standard American Diet. And I am ready to get out there and educate children and families, and empower them to make healthful choices that will fill their lives with wellness and vitality, so that they can be empowered to take charge of their own health. 70% of illness is attributed to poor lifestyle choices. Don't our children deserve better than this?
Yes, they do! And I'm going to get out there and make it happen :)