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Saturday, December 28, 2013
Sometimes my students ask me why I became a teacher, or if I like teaching, but few of them tell me they aspire to the profession (and it is a profession). Sometimes I see negative articles against teachers, and I can understand why my students may not consider it an option they wish to explore. Even more often I see lists of 'why it is tough being a teacher', or '37 reasons we have it hard'. These lists are often posted by my colleagues. I know these lists are in jest, and of course offer a good (and often much needed laugh) but I thought that since this is a time of year where we feel the need to share why we are thankful with others, I would take a minute to compose a list of why I love my job. So here it goes:
I freaking unequivocally love my job because:
1. I love my students. All of them. Even the challenging ones, even the ones that don't love me. I'm going to say the thing you're not supposed to say as an educator- I didn't get into it for the kids. I didn't have a higher calling to work with children, to spend my day educating, mentoring, and growing with them. No, I didn't "get into it for the kids" but let me be pretty damn clear- I have stayed in teaching, I have fallen in love with teaching, I have begun a never ending quest to continually revise my practice to be the best possible version- for the kids. They continue to inspire me, to push me, and to both zap and renew my energy day in and day out. I now relish the learning, growing, and mentoring. We all have identifiers- sister, brother, father, mother, husband, etc. For many an additional identifier is 'teacher'. Without my students, that identifier would not exist.
2. I get to start over. All of the time. I am given the awesome responsibility every year of getting to know 100 amazing, unique, and talented students. It is a challenge and a blessing. Regardless of whatever else happens in my life and in the world, there they are every September. Few people in life get the chance to hone their craft and revise it over and over again. Few people in life are guaranteed to meet 100 new awesome strangers every year. I do, and though they be in miniature middle school form, these strangers offer new perspective and teach me far more than I teach them. I don't get to have them in my charge for very long, and I only get a glimpse of the path they are going to embark on after leaving my class- but it is humbling and awesome to be a part of another human's journey.
3. I appreciate the beautiful quiet in being completely alone. Because we are interacting all day long, those times we are alone become more important. Though we are not the only profession that wakes up early, the life of a teacher most often includes early start times. Yes there are days I wish I could amble into the office at 9am after a morning run and an actual breakfast but then I would miss this: Those few fleeting moments before the sun comes up where you breathe in the energy of the morning. By the time the bell rings you won't be able to recall anything specific about those pre-dawn minutes, but that quiet, traffic free commute to work allows time for reflection, a few moments of being completely alone in a world (and a profession) where we spend all day long communicating and interacting with others. There is something about those few moments of communicating with one's self in the morning that make me feel completely human and completely connected.
4.I have gotten a glimpse into different cultures, family lives, religions, politics, and economic experiences via my students. Only traveling offers such insight into the human condition. Teaching allows us the insight, but even better it allows us to attempt to better the human condition. Enough said.
5. I get summer vacation. I know that sounds trivial, and I realize most of us work through the summer as well, but I still get the excited feeling of euphoria that kids have in June, and the nervous butterflies that come with the fall. I get to spend hot humid days meandering places of interest- learning, growing and experiencing. Adults often complain that they would love to travel more, to read more, to explore their passions more, to learn more. Too often though the 'real world' gets in the way and these pursuits are left behind in childhood. For a few weeks each year, I get to pursue those passions. I get to get lost in a book, visit places of interest and feel like a kid again. Adults spend tens of hundreds of dollars on creams, make ups, clothes, and fitness routines trying to feel young again. These things may help, but nothing makes you feel as young as a cool ice cream on a hot August night of 'Summer Vacation.'
6. I work with energetic amazing people. I'm not just referring to people in my immediate building. I have met great educators (and lets face it great human beings) within my district and on the inter webs. There are so many teachers in my district that inspire me and drive me to be a better person. As a profession we are sharers. We share of our time, our talents, and our materials. I know of no other profession where people are so willing to spend hours of their own time developing something, and then readily share it with their colleagues. I have seen colleagues give their lunch to students that were hungry, buy coats for students that were cold, and share hugs with those that needed them. These are not hyperbolic actions, but rather quiet acts that occur in classrooms every day. I have also met an amazing group of educators through virtual modes- through Twitter an Blogging I have come to know an additional crew of selfless individuals ready to help, share, and build a better education system for our country. If that doesn't speak to the beauty of the job I don't know what does.
7. I get to go to coach middle school field hockey, I get to go to high school football games, I get to wear silly T-shirts with school colors and participate in goofy staff acts in the talent show. Of course middle school and high school had their rough spots, but I get to relive the best of middle school and high school. I get to do it every day (and with significantly better hair thanks to the invention of hair straighteners).
8. I get to spend my days talking about history, and reading about history, and learning about history, and getting others talking, reading and learning about history. I get to spend my days immersed in the subject I love. Pretty. Freaking. Sweet.
9. I get notes telling me what students have learned and how they have grown over the year. I get to stop a parent in the grocery store and tell them about a random act of kindness that their child did. I get to see the best of humanity. I get to see the worst of it too, but I get to see both ends of the spectrum, and there is a renewing energy in that. I get talk to students that come back to visit, and see the contributions they are making to society- I get to see the product of my work- and I get to say that I am incredibly proud of the work that I do.
10. Sometimes, that tough student, the one that you thought didn't care, the one you thought you couldn't reach- sometimes they surprise you- and its awesome and incredible and moving and humbling. I get to experience that too.
11. I've gone to school my whole life. There are so many in the world (women in particular) that will never get that opportunity. How humbling that I get to return every year.
I could go on, there are so many great aspects to what I do. I hope that some of my students do go on to become teachers. I hope that they continue to learn every day. I hope that they get to see the best of humanity, not just the worst. I hope they get a chance to improve the human condition. I hope they get quiet moments to themselves. Most of all I hope they also find a profession that energizes them, that provides enough compensation to feed their families, but one that also feeds their soul. Mostly, I hope that they freakin love their job! Because I do.