On the first day back for teachers in my district, my admin asked, “Why do you teach?” They had us write it on a sticky note. It was said that the sticky note was meant for ourselves…then of course we were asked to share at our table.
I was duped! 😏🤦🤷😁 I should have known. I, of course, got all personal with my little pink sticky note. I am usually slow to get personal about my background and feelings with people, but here I was faced with having to share something. I speedily read my sticky note so as not to incite questions, but after reflection, I feel like I want to share more, no, I NEED to share more because it is so very important to me.
Why do I teach?
When I was in middle school I was a very quiet kid. I worked hard, got good grades, and tried to fly under the radar. My teachers made school fun, and I felt safe with most of my teachers. Kids were brutal, though. On top of have a rocky home life, I was not (by any means) cool. My family didn’t have much money. We recently moved to the area from abroad. I loved Star Trek TNG and was at least 2 years behind what was “in.”
I was blessed to live in an area where I had a choice of public high schools, and I chose to go to a Magnet School. It was a place where kids were a bit more like me. Being smart was cool(er) and people came from all areas of town. At my school it was ok to be your own person. (We may have been hipsters before hipsters were a thing…lol!) I still wasn’t in the popular crowd, but I had a great group of friends.
Home life was still rough, but my teachers saved me in so many ways. My band director believed in my potential (not just in music), helped me stay focused, and encouraged me to be the best version of me. My history teacher my junior year was compassionate and made history come alive. He passionately concerned himself with the nurturing and growth of all of his students well beyond the basic standards of history. I remember a day in my Junior year when I had such a bad night at home that I couldn’t stop crying to study for my history test…or sleep, and without needing to go into details, my history teacher listened to me, believed me, and let me have the class period to study so I could take the test the next day. I had a chemistry teacher who gave me extended time because she knew I wanted to get things done, but with my home situation, some things were beyond my control. These teachers saved me through their grace and patience. They cheered me on, praised my hard work, and helped me learn to be proud of the person I was…especially at a time when my life was at a tipping point.
My physics teacher (who actually started the year with “I hate you all, but I hate you all equally.”) was incredible. He was one of the kindest people I ever knew, but he was stern and fair. By the end of the year, we could all laugh about how scared we all were on day one. We all loved him because he cared so much for each one of us. He recognized students (including myself) for honesty and integrity, and from a man with such high standards, that was a huge honor! There were so many other teachers who also helped fuel in me a passion for learning and a passion for life – something to live for.
My life could have been so different. It was apparent to me then and is now that teachers have the power to inspire, give hope, teach grace, and build a better future for each student who walks through their door. I would even go so far as to say that a great teacher can save the life of a student. Teachers have the opportunity to be the one positive thing in the lives of students. It makes me emotional to think about it. I want to be that influence for someone. I want to change lives. I love what I do.
That is why I teach.