Like many young teachers, I was eager to earn graduate units to move up on my districtâ€™s pay scale. To accumulate the greatest number of units in the least amount of time, each quarter I enrolled in an after-school class designed for working teachers. The classes met one night a week and featured a different presenter each time. On some evenings I would come away with useful information; on others I wouldnâ€™t. One night a principal from my district gave a presentation that at first didnâ€™t appear especially applicable to my teaching situation. Then, as my classmates and I were packing our belongings and preparing to leave, he shared a list of book recommendations. Fortunately for me, I was still paying attention.
On that list was William Glasserâ€™s The Quality School.
Discovering that book was my first lucky break.
I first gave serious thought to becoming a teacher in 1992 during my final semester as a sociology major at the University of Virginia. I took a Sociology of Education course and loved every minute of it. In class we discussed and analyzed American schooling in a way that was completely new and exciting to me. When I graduated, I didnâ€™t know what I wanted to do for a living, but teaching was increasingly on my mind as a potential option.
I worked a bunch of part-time jobs back home in Los Angeles in the year that followed while I figured out my next step. By far, my favorite job was working as a teacherâ€™s aide at Overland Avenue School. I split my time between two fifth grade classes and did yard duty before school and during recess. I loved working with the kids, and I was fascinated by the innerworkings of an elementary school classroom. I even loved yard duty. Each day after work I read all the education books I could get my hands on. Theodore Sizerâ€™s well-known Horace trilogy was especially influential.
One of the fifth grade teachers knew I had a growing interest in pursuing a career as an educator, and she gave me many extra responsibilities, including the opportunity to teach lessons to the class. I will forever be grateful for these opportunities because they gave me a strong sense of how fulfilling and interesting teaching could be. At the time a student-teacher from UCLA was working in the same class, and I learned about the UCLA Teacher Education Program from her and her field coordinator. By the Spring, I decided to apply to that program and finally live out my dream of attending the school that was only a mile or so away from my childhood home.
There were many pivotal moments during my year at UCLA that shaped my development as a person and as a teacher enormously. One came after I taught a lesson as part of my first student teaching placement. I was sitting outside the room with one of my supervisors, Sharon, who had come to evaluate me that day. Our conversation centered on classroom management, a topic in which I had become quite interested.