Unlike many of my colleagues who attended independent schools themselves, my entry into the independent school world was almost accidental. I attended public schools all my life, and although I had a vague awareness that there was something called a “private school,” I had no idea that it could be different from public school in any substantive way. I made no distinctions between independent schools, parochial schools, etc. In my teenage angst, I probably thought it was just a way for rich folks to separate themselves from the rest of us. In short, I was clueless.

Until I was maybe 17 or 18, my family was never in a position to even consider private education, so it just never came up. And in high school, when I first considered teaching as a career (mostly because I wanted to coach), the private school option never crossed my mind. I eventually talked myself out of that and went to college intent on pursuing a career in business instead (mostly because I wanted to get rich), but of course, as many of us did, I soon realized that I didn’t have the patience for cubicle life. (Funny that because I didn’t have the patience for a cubicle, I chose to work with kids who can’t always locate Illinois on a map.)

Again, even once I decided on becoming a teacher, I never considered private schools. In my mind, there was only one real kind of school, and that was a public school. So I enrolled in my alma mater’s school of education and embarked on a five-year program that would give me a B.A. in history and a Master’s degree in teaching.

Fortunately, one of the first classes I took was called something like “The Teaching Profession,” and we considered all sorts of issues relevant to would-be teachers: differing educational philosophies, school choice, and standardized education, among others. The professor insisted that we begin figuring out our own beliefs and opinions about all of these issues, not only because this would make us better teachers, but because we would be asked about them in job interviews. By this point, I was starting to recognize that increased standardization was the “way of the future” in public education, so during our discussion on that topic, I raised my hand and (naively) asked, “What if our opinion on standardization differs from the school’s?” And without missing a beat, the professor said, “Perhaps you should consider teaching in private schools.”