Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Why I teach...
There's a buzz going around now. Tired, huddled masses of teachers yearning to breathe free. We ask ourselves, and each other, "Why do you do it?". Many of my friends have had their say, and there's even a new blog created called "Use Your Outside Voice" to help document why we are here and why we stay.
Of course, we only teach because it's such an easy job that anyone can do it, right? Anyone who has stepped foot in a classroom EVER can tell you that isn't the case. Just like any responsible citizen who puts in a full day's work - we are tired at the end of the day. Children are amazing, and touching the future is exhilarating, but the job is far from easy.
So, the question remains.... why do I teach?
In middle school and high school, my future was filled with promise. Everyone told me that I was such a "smart" girl and I could "do anything I wanted". I considered astronomy, archeology, chemistry... I was encouraged to shoot for the stars. (For the record, in spite of the fact that both of my parents are physicians I never even remotely considered medical school.) As a self-proclaimed feminist, I felt my choices should showcase the fact that women could - and should - have it all.
I dutifully took my PSATs, and was named a National Merit Scholar. My SATs and AP scores continued to prove that I could do whatever I wanted. Still, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I enjoyed everything, and just couldn't decide. I chose to attend University of Delaware with an undeclared major, both because they offered me a scholarship and because they had so many options for when I finally made up my mind.
When I decided that I wanted to teach, I wondered if I was "squandering" my potential. After all, that's what I kept hearing. The classes were easy, it's true, but what I really wanted was to make a difference. Well, that and the idea of teaching in elementary was appealing because it meant I could do it ALL. I loved science - but not enough to devote my life to one tiny branch of the field. I loved math - but not enough to spend my days with only a white board of formulas. I loved literature, and writing, and history.... you get the idea.
Finally, I knew what I wanted to do. Gifted students are often overlooked. Everyone believes they are "just fine". They'll make it, right? From my own experiences, and from watching the other smart kids I grew up with, I knew that was only partially true. I didn't want those kids to just "make it". I wanted them to learn how to cope with challenges, and how to find their passions. I didn't want to be a scientist, or a lawyer, or an environmental activist. I wanted to help create an entire generation of kids find out who THEY wanted to be.
So I chose to spend my career helping children who are a lot like I was in school. Curious, smart, sensitive. Each child is on the cusp, trying to figure out her place in the world. I'm smart, but it takes all of my mental resources to stay a step ahead of this bunch. I'm creative, but it takes all of my agility to find just the right way to ignite the passions of each child who walks through my door. I'm always exploring, reading, growing - because that's the only way that I can make sure that I have what they need.
Each day brings a unique challenge, a new idea, a new set of questions I've never heard before. Each year I meet a new set of eyes, minds, hearts, and souls. They are looking to me to help them learn what it means to be unique in a world that may or may not value who they are inside. They are looking to me to help them discover what it means to be human - passionate and compassionate.
So.... you ask me why I teach?
I teach to create the future, one small human at a time.
I'm participating in the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by the amazing educators at Two Writing Teachers. Now that March is over, we write and share on Tuesdays. Stop by to see what others are posting!
Also - if you stop by and comment, and you are also slicing - PLEASE feel free to include your URL in the comments. With over 200 people slicing, it is often hard to go find your specific link on the Two Writing Teachers page, and I'd love to come read YOUR slice too!