To me teaching is a calling, second only to the ministry in point of service. –Sarah Quinn (my grandmother, a retired elementary school teacher)
My grandmother retired from a long teaching career before I was born, but throughout my childhood, I cannot count the number of people who told me that she had taught them. They each had a story to tell about having had her as a teacher. I heard how strict she was, but I also heard quite often that she was a great teacher. My grandmother did not live long enough to see me become a teacher, but I’d like to think that it would’ve made her proud.
This past summer, as I was going through some of her old belongings, I uncovered a treasure…a handwritten essay titled, “Why I Was a Dedicated Teacher.” As I read her words, I was struck by how many of her sentiments still ring true today. You can read them for yourself…
A once honored profession, the teaching profession often gets a bad rap these days. When I tell people that I am a high school teacher, I get a mixture of responses. Most people tell me that they could never be a high school teacher because they couldn’t deal with students’ attitudes. Some people ask me why I changed careers to become a teacher (I was a lawyer once upon a time). Others just look at me sympathetically, and few actually ever make positive comments. Teaching has so much to offer, though!
Don’t get me wrong…you will sometimes hear me complaining about the constant changes, the excessive testing of our students, the overuse of data analysis, and the lack of time allotted to actual teaching these days. Because those complaints sometimes creep into my mind, I wrote this list as a reminder to myself of some of the reasons I chose to become a teacher. In case you are wondering why anyone would choose this profession, OR if you have chosen the profession for yourself and need a reminder of some of the things it has to offer, here you go…
- You get to keep up with the latest fashion trends (unless your students wear uniforms). I mean, come on…why spend your time scouring Pinterest and InStyle magazine when you can see all the latest trends while walking down the hallways of your school? Added bonus: you know the image these fashion trends portray in your students, so you can choose your styles accordingly. (In case you are wondering, I didn’t actually make my career choice because of this one 😄)
- It is never boring. (unless you are) This is not an accounting job where you sit behind a desk and do the same thing every day. Things change from one day to the next, and not just as a result of moving forward though the curriculum. Students bring in a variety of attitudes and stories each class period. Sometimes these present a challenge and sometimes they provide entertainment, but they always keep things interesting.
- You get to start over every year (or possibly every semester depending on what you teach). Another great upside to teaching is that even if you have a really challenging year, you know that things will change at the end of the year/semester. This group of students (most of them, at least) will move on, and a new group will arrive. Administrators come and go, and requirements that come with the profession will change, so you are never stuck in a rut for a very long period of time. You can always remind yourself that May will be here before you know it.
- The schedule is hard to beat. Don’t get me wrong…a teacher works A LOT more hours than just 7:00-3:00 each day. Many nights, weekends and holidays are spent planning, coaching, working at extracurricular activities, chaperoning field trips, grading, counseling, etc., BUT those of us who have children do get to spend a lot of time off with them during the summer months, spring break, and holidays.
- You have opportunities almost daily to learn from your peers. A lot of professions keep you somewhat secluded from those with whom you work. Having the opportunity to observe successful co-workers is an invaluable tool for professional improvement. In the teaching profession, we are surrounded by others who exemplify greatness in differing skills. By working next door or down the hall or even in the same department as those outstanding teachers, we are able to draw from the knowledge and skills of others and improve ourselves and our own teaching styles. I mean, seriously…who better to ask for help in an area of weakness than a teacher?
- You develop relationships with people you likely would not otherwise know. A public school consists of every subset within a community. Those who work in a business setting likely spend the majority of their time interacting only with others who are in the same socioeconomic class. Those people miss out on the variety of cultures that exists within our communities. Exposure to these different cultures provides a wealth of knowledge that it would be a shame to miss out on.
- You have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. I saved this one for last because it is the most meaningful reason there is. As teachers, we have the possibility every single day of doing or saying something that makes a difference in a student’s life. We never know what comment we make or action we take might inspire a student. Sometimes we are even lucky enough to have a student come back and tell us that we made a difference in their lives. Having a student tell you that something you did or said changed his or her life for the better is the equivalent of winning a Grammy. It is the single most important thing we can ever hope to accomplish professionally.
So, whether you are contemplating a career change from another profession, or you have been teaching for twenty-five years, I hope you’ll take a moment to think about this list. If you ever had a teacher who made a positive impact on your life and you still know how to get in touch with him or her, you should send a note telling them so. That simple statement would make him or her feel like a rock star. 🙂