Home > Uncategorized > I changed hundreds of lives…CLICK HERE to find out how!

I changed hundreds of lives…CLICK HERE to find out how!

June 28, 2015

That title, in Internet parlance, is what’s  known as clickbait. Surely you’ve seen examples such as these during your web-browsing adventures…

Here’s the secret to cheap car insurance your state doesn’t want you to know…

17 fun facts you didn’t know about #oklaed bloggers…

This amazing ingredient is the hidden key to permanent weight loss…

I clicked on the last one. The answer is hemlock.

I start today’s post with the clickbait hook because fellow educator Mindy Dennison has challenged those of us in the blogosphere to answer the question, Why Teach? Given that we’re always discussing the teacher shortage and policy conditions that diminish the profession, this is a very hard question to answer. I want to do while sounding neither cliché nor like authentic frontier gibberish.

I also want to turn it into a two part question for administrators, with the second one being, Why Teach Here? We not only need to sell our profession; we also need to sell our own schools and districts. Sure, it’s a little self-serving, but most of us have chosen to teach/work where we are. There have to be good reasons.

Those of you who know me understand that I’m not much into hype. I say what I think. I won’t try to tell you why teaching is better than every other profession in the world. I’ve met people who thought they wanted to teach and found out they were wrong. I’ve also met people who left some other more lucrative career and never looked back.

From 22 years in education, I can pretty much sum up most people’s reason for entering teaching into three categories –

  • Kids
  • Content
  • Convenience

Each of these can be valid reasons, but they don’t equally translate to likelihood for success. I’ll expound a little bit on each:

(Passion for) Kids

The best reason to enter the teaching profession, hands down, is that you are driven to make the lives of children better. You don’t care who or where you teach; you just want a room full of kids. It could be that you were raised by teachers or that you remember a teacher who reached out to you when it seemed as if no one else would. It could be any number of things. On the other hand, what 18, 20, or 22 year-old knows for certain that he/she would love to spend the next 35 years around kids of any age? I didn’t. I learned within the first month that helping students learn and find success in this world is my passion. I just can’t pretend that this was my initial motivation.

(Passion for) Content

I love writing. Have I mentioned that before? I love reading too, but at 17 when I chose English as my major, it was because of my love of writing. I chose teaching because I thought it would be enjoyable to emulate some of my favorite English teachers. I could see myself teaching students, having a similar impact on them to what my teachers had on me. I loved the idea of reading my favorite books with students and discussing what they mean.

Similarly, I know plenty of teachers who are passionate about the various subjects they teach: biology, French, math, music….really anything – including athletics. They feel that part of their job is to help more students find passion in those subjects as well.

This is great to me. Students love it when teachers care about the subject matter. Still, I can’t say that all my students were converts. No teacher can. On my best days, though, I could share my passion with a room full of people who would at least indulge my interests and consider – be it ever so briefly – that what got me riled up might work for them too. They didn’t all enjoy reading Shakespeare, but that doesn’t make the kids bad or strange.  Making Shakespeare more interesting, more fun, and more engaging was my job. And it was an enjoyable challenge.

Convenience

This reason isn’t as bad as it sounds. I knew a lot of people in college who had picked majors without picking a career. Studying history as an undergraduate student sounds nice. Maybe you thought you’d go to law school with that degree, but you’ve come to find that you really just don’t want to be a lawyer. Meanwhile, your roommate is an education major. You decide to give it a try.

Yes, there are people in our schools who teach because when it came time to convert a line of study into a career, they simply said, sure, I’ll try it. Some who have done this have thrived and now can’t imagine doing anything different. Others, just as some in the first two groups, have entered the profession and quickly left.

The myth that teachers teach to get summers off probably has a root somewhere. Surely that has motivated someone somewhere to teach. That said, most teachers I know work second jobs in the summer or spend as much time as possible taking classes or going to conferences.

Conclusion

Any of these reasons can be good reasons to begin teaching, but there’s only one reason to stick with it: kids. I want more people in this world to have a passion for making the biggest difference they can in the lives of children. I want every teacher to have the seemingly paradoxical attitude of wanting to be the best teacher these kids have ever had while hoping that they have someone even better somewhere down the road. And I want teachers to be honest and reflective enough to say when they just don’t have the drive for it anymore.

I still remember students from my first day in the classroom. If I pulled out the picture of our 8th grade team on the steps of the Oklahoma Capitol, I bet I could even remember many of their names, 22 years later. I don’t know where they are now, what they’ve become, or their year with me has made any difference in their lives. I’ll probably never know that. I can say with certainty, though, that each of those students helped shape me into the teacher that I became, which means that they in turn impacted every student I had after that.

I’m 44 and I became a teacher half my life ago. I still can’t imagine choosing any other career.

Teach because it will mean something to you. For the second part of the question, teach here because…

…well that will have to wait for my next post.

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  1. June 28, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    YES! I love it. I will try to blurt something one out on (virtual) paper that will be completely unorganized and more precisely off point.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. claudiaswisher
    June 28, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    I began teaching for convenience…wanted to be able to earn enough money so my boyfriend and I could get married. I soon felt inadequate in the content of teaching, and went back to school…and I gained an everlasting passion for kids that drove the next 30+ years.

    I can see your three ‘C’s’ at work in my own career…Thanks for making me think.

    Oh, and the marriage took! We’ll celebrate 50 years this winter

    Liked by 1 person

  3. June 28, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    I see you baited the end of your post as well. Nice book-ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. DIANNE WHALEN
    June 29, 2015 at 6:35 am

    What a wonderful, well-written article. You have managed to capture my sentiments precisely.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. June 29, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    Yes, we’ve chosen the world of education for different reasons…but passion for kids is what keeps us here!

    Like

  6. Bec
    July 8, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    I have taught for 32 wonderful years and looking forward to my 33rd. I love my students, my content (English), and the challenge of conveying knowledge to my students in a way that they can use it in the “real world.” I am so fortunate to be able to do what I love. We need young passionate, compassionate, enthusiastic, idealistic teachers. They make me a better teacher! We need to encourage these young people to become teachers to not only change their students’ lives, but to also change the direction of education in this country. We are seeing the pendulum swing away from the ridiculous high-stakes testing. Things will be much better in five or ten years, but we must keep working to make it better. Thank you for giving us a voice and keep up the good work.

    Like

    • July 9, 2015 at 6:33 am

      Thank you for your contribution – to this post, but more importantly, to the profession!

      Like

  7. science teacher
    July 11, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    Well said! I also got into teaching more for the love of content than any other reason. I wanted to be able to instill a love of science in my students just like a few of my high school teachers did for me. However, it quickly became all about the students. They are the reason I have stayed for 6 years now.

    Liked by 1 person

  1. June 28, 2015 at 8:55 pm
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