Thursday, November 15, 2007

Why I teach

I'm a teacher. I've probably been a teacher, in some way or shape, since I was about thirteen years old. In 10th grade, I was the girl in math class who - when the overeager teacher would turn his back to the class to answer a question totally different from the one he'd just been asked - would quietly write out the answer to my neighbor's question in the corner of his notebook. I remember lying on my friend's living room floor, explaining buoyancy to a group of my very eager friends the week before our science midterm. In 7th grade, I scolded my friends at the lunch table when they were being rude or uncharitable to each other. "Be ni-ice" became my catch phrase, and my name was attached to it whenever anyone else said it.

Just the other day, I was telling an old friend how bizarre it was that I knew what I wanted "to be" by the time I was in 7th grade. I want say, I knew what I wanted to do, but really in my heart I know that I am a teacher, not just a person who teaches.

What do I love about it? I love working with teenagers. High school kids just ... make sense to me. Maybe it's a sign of my maturity level, but I'm not sure that's true. Even though I'm young, I'm rather mom-ish with them, but then again I've been that way since I was 12. I think one of my especial gifts is my ability to really listen to kids. A colleague said to me today "Kids tell you an awful lot" and I thought, but didn't say, "they tell you too, you just don't really hear them."

How cool is it that it's my job to go to school everyday, read fantastic books and watch kids react to them? Sometimes I just want to walk around bragging about some clever remark or comment one of "my kids" made in class. I can't think of a better job in the world.

There have been times in my life when I was tempted to quit teaching, but it was never because of what happened in the classroom. Grading can get overwhelming, especially for English teachers, and there's so much paperwork that I can't even imagine ever getting to the bottom of it. There's always drama among faculty members, confusion among even the best administrations, and disagreement about how a school should be run. But as long as I'm in my room reading books with my kids, none of that exists.

4 comments:

Chief Family Officer said...

I just wanted to say how nice it was to read about someone who truly loves what they do at work. Usually everyone just complains, so I found this wonderfully uplifting!

E.C. said...

Thank you for taking the time to write this. Even though I find myself drawn to teaching, I still have doubts. Most of the important people in my life are urging me to go to graduate school and then become a professor. Research can be exciting, but I've found it to be no match for the thrill of finally explaining a concept to someone in a way that clicks. Universities don't emphasize one-on-one interaction the way high schools do, and the professors I know who take the time to mentor students seem to get beaten down by a system that values research, grants, and publications over all else.

story girl said...

e.c.,

With all my heart I understand. I had two different professors in college tell me "I don't want to tell you NOT to teach, but you know you'd be very successful at. . . "

And it was definitely nice to hear. And sometimes I would love to be a grad student or a prof and be back in that college environment, to be in a room full of people who are not just taking English because the counselor put it on their schedule for 3rd period and the state requires 4 years of it.

But there's something really charming about being able to mold a reader or writer from the beginning. Plus, as I said, I really love teenagers. It's cool to watch them become the adults they're going to be, and to help build their character, values, and goals. I think that kind of relationship in college is very rare - though not necessarily impossible.

ylfoo said...

Some teachers teach, rare inspire. I believe from your post, you belong to the latter.

Doing stuffs you are passionate about is something not easy but certainly rewarding at the end of the day.

Lastly thank you for sharing your post.