Facebook
Edutopia on Facebook
Twitter
Edutopia on Twitter
Google+
Edutopia on Google+
Pinterest
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

In my previous post, I discussed how important it is for me to connect with my students, and how one way I do so is by eliciting their stories.

I also need to make connections with other teachers. So I ask, why do you teach? Most teachers get a dreamy look on their faces when I ask them this question. Most haven't thought about it in a while.

Recalling the reasons why we teach -- keeping them fresh and foremost in our minds -- is, I believe, the key to sustaining ourselves during the long and challenging school year.

I teach because, for me, it's the most effective and most enjoyable way to change the world. That's the bottom line: We need to change this world, and this is the way I'm choosing to do it. Teaching allows me to work on hearts and minds, to guide people in becoming empowered, literate, engaged, creative, liberated human beings who want to join in this effort to change the world.

I've seen it happen. I always believed that my students could transform and find themselves, in addition to becoming literate people and graduating from high school, but now I'm witnessing it. I'm seeing students I taught in elementary school and middle school graduate from high school, discover their skills and passions, and go to college. I always knew they could do it, and now they're doing it. That's why I teach.

I also teach because some didn't make it. Some of the sweet, brilliant, gentle sixth graders I taught many years ago are now on the streets, in gangs, in jail, in trouble. Their names and faces come to mind fast. I vividly remember their inquisitive faces, probing questions, musical compositions, and acting skills when they were twelve years old. I knew them as little boys. They don't look like that anymore. My heart aches. I keep teaching because we're losing too many kids in Oakland.

I work in middle schools because that's where the battle gets most intense but also where we can still reverse problems. I love middle school kids. I love where they are intellectually and emotionally. I love being able to engage them in the kind of rigorous discussions they aren't ready for until around sixth grade, and then I love getting hugs once in a while (in contrast to elementary school kids, who want hugs eight times a day, every day). You can still turn their lives around in middle school. I know; I've seen it.

I remind myself of these reasons, and all the others, quite often. Teaching kids, and adults, is hard -- really, really hard. I need to regularly remind myself why I do this. I have dozens of visual cues on my walls: quotes, photos of old students, and student artwork and writing. I list the names of those who made it, and those who didn't. I have photos of my family, because I also do this work for my son, because of my mother and grandmother, and with the endless support of my husband. I need to have all my intellectual and emotional receptors regularly tuned in to the reasons I've chosen this profession, because it's really hard, and exhausting, and never ending, and overwhelming.

So, why do you teach? Why do you teach reading, or science, or art? Why do you teach kindergarten, or ninth grade, or college? Share your stories. Share them here, share them with colleagues as the year starts, and share them with your students.

And, most of all, remind yourself why you teach.

Comments (147)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Christine's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I absolutely agree! You certainly have to love to teach. It definately isn't because of the money or the time off. It makes me feel good, even if it affects one child, you've made a difference.

Kristina's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I teach because I love seeing the lightbulbs go off when my students finally understand a problem. I also love the interaction that my students have and watching them learn both academically and socially.

As many of you mentioned, I love knowing that I make a difference and hope to some day help to change the world even if only slightly.

Kristina's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Your retirement issue is very interesting. In my county, we are having monetary problems as well, but we are working on it slowly. One of our incentive ideas was to allow teachers early retirement so that some of the higher salaries would come out.

I can retire after 30 years...I hope I don't experience the same problem. SCARY!

Julie Rhue's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I teach because it was something I always wanted to do when I was younger. I got to college and my father always wanted me to get into business, so I did after I graduated I went into "Corporate America". I worked for a couple of years, went back and got another degree, this time in education. When I graduated, I got a job in teaching and I wouldn't leave my job for anything now.

Kelly Speed's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I teach because I am the change I wish to see in the world by starting with my class. I want to create change and for me the most direct and effective change I can be responsible for is the lives of my students. Even the slightest change in attitude and self-esteem is what keeps me excited to be a teacher each day.

Kenzi's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I teach to help students become better people, and life-long learners. I want to show them that I care, and that they can make a difference. I also have a love of life, and want them to experience that. My school years were spent with too many teachers who didn't care anymore, and should have moved on (sad to say, but it is the truth!).

Ann Marie Cunha's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Your comment "to teach is to become eternal" really struck me. I too have been teaching for about 30 years. When I meet former students, and they say they remember something I may have said or done in class years ago, I feel humbled. Did I make an impact of this person's life?? What a great feeling!

Tara Fraser's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I went into teaching because I love spending time with kids. As the years go by, I have been blessed with many special students that have come in and out of my life. Making connections with my students is irreplaceable to me. I teach sixth graders and coach at the high school level. I enjoy seeing my sixth graders grow up, turn into young adults, and make their way to college. I also teach because I feel like this is my way to improve the world. This is my eighth year, and in those eight years, I have seen quite a few changes in the students who come through my door. Teaching is an artwork and it takes a special person to accomplish this important job.

Tara Fraser's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I went into teaching because I love spending time with kids. As the years go by, I have been blessed with many special students that have come in and out of my life. Making connections with my students is irreplaceable to me. I teach sixth graders and coach at the high school level. I enjoy seeing my sixth graders grow up, turn into young adults, and make their way to college. I also teach because I feel like this is my way to improve the world. This is my eighth year, and in those eight years, I have seen quite a few changes in the students who come through my door. Teaching is an artwork and it takes a special person to accomplish this important job.

Carolyn Andrews's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Why I teach

I teach because I love children. I enjoy teaching young children new things and seeing their eyes light up when they get it. Teaching is the best way to touch lives and help shape our future.

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.