A Chapter by Debbie Barry

An essay about the experiences that influenced my decision to become a teacher. Written for MTH 1121: Math for Elementary Majors



September 12, 2008


          Experiences as students, both good and bad, influence a future teacher’s decision to teach, and the way he or she approaches teaching.

          A particular bad experience I had in school occurred at the very outset of my public school education.  I had already attended an academic preschool eight hours a day, five days a week, for three years at Bennington College, in Vermont.  My mother took me for my kindergarten entrance test at North Bennington Graded School.

          In the course of the test, I gave a number of responses which caused the teachers to tell my mother I was mentally retarded.  She made them go over the test with me again, with my mother present, so she could see where they had got that impression of me.

          One test item that had concerned the school was about a stick figure. I was given a partial drawing, and told to finish it.  The initial drawing had a body, a head, one arm with three fingers, one leg, one eye, and a mouth.  I added a second arm with five fingers, a second leg, and a second eye, and I added two fingers to the original three.  The school objected to the two extra fingers on each hand, saying I was only supposed to have copied the existing half of the figure.

          Another part of the test which had caused concern was about identifying shapes.  I was given a picture of assorted shapes.  I correctly pointed out the triangles, circles, and squares. When asked to pick out the rectangles, I chose all of the rectangles, including the squares. I did know that a square was a kind of rectangle, but my mother was told that a child my age couldn’t know that.

          A third part of the test that caused concern was about my parents’ jobs.  I said my mother was a teacher, and that was fine.  I then said my father was an MTMTSE.  The teacher told my mother I didn’t know what my father’s job was.  My mother told them to ask me what MTMTSE meant, and I told them Daddy was a method time management time study engineer.  That was the most accurate name for the job he did as an industrial engineer for Stanley Tools.

          I have always resented the fact that knowing more than was usual for my age group almost got me labeled as learning impaired.  It was that experience that made me swear never to allow my own children to be held down to an educational standard if they were ready to know more.

          In the same vein, that experience will make me more aware of the struggles faced by children who learn differently from other children.  In particular, it will help me be sensitive to the needs of unusually advanced students, who are often under stimulated by the curricula of our public schools.

          There were also many good experiences in my education.  There were so many, in fact, that it is difficult to choose one.  Nearly every good experience I remember was in English, though a few were in science.

          My eleventh grade English teacher, most of all my teachers, had a positive impact on me.  I also had him for the twelfth grade English elective.  He was a teacher who pushed me to be my very best, while allowing my creativity very free rein in interpreting his assignments.  He always treated all of us with respect, and encouraged every student to find the strengths within himself or herself.

          It’s hard to define a single moment, but I think my experience over those two years with this teacher may be considered one experience.  It was because of him that I had several stories, essays, and poems published before I graduated from high school.

          My positive experiences with this teacher affect me to this day.  I believe that, largely because of him, I will be able to see each student as an individual deserving of respect and needing encouragement.  It will help me to remember that a unique approach to an assignment need not be a wrong approach.

          From my educational experiences, both good and bad, I have developed an appreciation for creative learning, and for individual differences, which I hope to carry into my future classroom.

© 2017 Debbie Barry

Author's Note

Debbie Barry
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Added on November 10, 2017
Last Updated on November 10, 2017
Tags: essay, assignment, math, experiences, influence, decision, teacher, teaching, vocation

A Journey through My College Papers


Debbie Barry
Debbie Barry

Clarkston, MI

I live with my husband in southeastern Michigan with our two cats, Mister and Goblin. We enjoy exploring history through French and Indian War re-enactment and through medieval re-enactment in the So.. more..