Thank You, Organic Chemistry

This post was written for the Project PLN Passion issue in response to the question, “Why are you passionate about education?” I only hope I did it justice.

Old Chemistry BuildingMany respond with a look of utter confusion when I explain that I turned my back on two years of pre-med classes for the picture book reading life of an elementary education major. It’s true, I wanted to be a doctor, a pediatrician to be exact, and I set out on that path during the final two years of my high school career. However, deep down in my gut, I always had deep admiration for teachers. I had some of the most amazing teachers growing up, and to this day I owe a lot of who I am as a teacher to them (Thank you Mrs. Alameda & Mr. McBride). Teaching was where I was headed until the status and money perfumed fragrance of the medical profession wafted into my olfactory receptors like the aroma of chocolate chip cookies fresh out of mom’s oven. It took an organic chemistry class kicking my ass to knock some sense back into my head (and trust me, it kicked hard). It allowed me to reflect on what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life.

I made the decision to switch my major from Microbiology to Elementary Education one night studying at a coffee shop with friends. It took all of 10 minutes to come to this realization. The encouragement of those there that night and a call to my parents, along with their complete support sealed the deal. The next day I made it official. (Peace out College of Science! What up, College of Ed?) I made the right decision. I love going to a school each day, working with students, and putting new technology into the hands of teachers and kids. I found my passion, and I love every second of it.

Students are the heart, soul, and inspiration behind what I do each day. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are days that are tough, and times when I question whether or not it’s worth it. However, all it takes a note from a 2nd grader telling me “You Rock!” or a hug from a 4th grader that sneaked out of line and into my office to put things back into perspective. I get to make a difference in the world, one student at a time and there isn’t a single job perk out there better than that (although tater tots in the cafeteria makes a compelling case for a close second). I have the pleasure and humbling experience of helping kids discover their own passions while I live out mine. I get to mentor, inspire, laugh with, and love students that may not get any of that when they leave our walls each afternoon. I get to have fun everyday, inspire staff and students, and wear chucks instead of dress shoes. When a fifth grader asked me what I was going to wear that next day to work and then showed up in the same outfit, I knew I had found my calling in this world, my true passion.

Harold Whitman said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.” I’m in education because it makes me come alive and I get to inspire students to do the same. Thanks for kick O-Chem, I needed it.

photo: Lucian Teo (Flickr, Creative Commons)


About Timothy Gwynn

Tim is an Instructional Technology Facilitator in North Carolina by way of Arizona. His transcontinental experience gives him the unique ability to not only appreciate a well made glass of sweet tea, but also spell the plural form of cactus without hesitation. He currently works at a K-5 school and is passionate about Educational Technology. Tweet him at @tgwynn.
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8 Responses to Thank You, Organic Chemistry

  1. James says:

    Good post. I think a lot of people pursue a pre-med path for the wrong reasons, and underestimate how exceptionally stressful and difficult the life of a doctor can be. Kudos to you for following a path you’re genuinely interested in.

    • Thank you, James. I think I originally headed into Pediatrics for the right reasons. I just realized I was better suited to help kids in another profession. It was hard to switch at first because the superfluous parts of the medical profession had seeped in.

  2. Jeremy M. says:

    I appreciate the reflection Tim. I went through similar situation. I was in a Communications major. I was looking into Advertising and wanted to be a Copy Writer. I wanted to be remembered for my one-liners. I had about 2.5 years of schooling under my belt and I was ready to finish my program and begin interning. Fortunately I had a piece of mind to spend some time looking at other options, so I looked at Business for a semester. In my accounting class I had an epiphany of sorts. Long story short, I changed my major (with over 90 credits) and decided to become a teacher. I had to commit to completing the program in less than two years. It was insanely difficult for those 20 months, but I’ll never look back. It was the best decision I ever made.

    • I love sharing stories like that with people. I really think it speaks to experience of teaching, one you’ll never know unless you’re called to it. An experience that completely feeds your soul. I only wish others recognized the importance of it.

  3. Gowan says:

    Toby! Love your blog. Your dad sent it to my mom sent it to me. Davey has a blog for his year in Spain he’s writing- he quoted the same quote! check his out: Great topic you chose, love, your favorite pediatrician ever!-

    • Gowan! How awesome that you read my blog. Apparently my mom has become quite the promoter. I looked over Davey’s blog briefly at work, I’ll need to take some time this weekend to really dig in and see how his adventure is going. I wish that was something I was brave enough to do back in college.

  4. Ktenkely says:

    You did it justice and then some, it is so much fun to hear stories that led us to our passions. Glad your hanging with us in edu!

  5. Sarah says:

    I completely understand your change of career. Organic chemistry kicked my butt this semester and pretty much cleared my vision about becoming a doctor. I still love the allure of being a doctor but I think I would use that to teach a group of kids and to learn to love biology like I do.

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