We can't go anywhere without hearing about the problems that plague education. The biggest problem of all, according to pundits and their sidekick, the media, is the villainous teacher. They claim we need a newer troop of best and brightest, but if attacking the profession is some kind of plan to recruit a new breed of teacher, I question this method's effectiveness. After all, why in the world would anyone dedicate a life to ducking and weaving through bullets of disrespect and under-appreciation?
Nevertheless, I agree that we want to attract great educators to this profession. More importantly, however, I want to remind many teachers who are here now why they already are the best and the brightest. To do both takes promoting what makes teaching so wonderful and unique.
For this reason, I want to share with you my top five reasons I love teaching:
1. I fell in love with being happy. Doing what you're good at makes for a happier you. I have to admit, however, I was not a person who entered teaching because I had this inherent passion for the good fight. I didn't enter into it because I was so altruistic. I entered it because I discovered I was good at it. I wasn't just good at my subject, I was good at communicating it. From there the love grew. It was like I was living some Judd Apatow movie where the protagonist jumps into a ridiculous situation based on his slacker charm, and then falls in love after learning that life is so much deeper than he originally believed. That's right. I'm a cinematic cliché. However, it's true. I fell in love with teaching after I started teaching.
2. I love learning. Through teaching, I've discovered a love of diving deep, of submerging myself in subjects I knew nothing about and swimming in the deep end of my own content. We as educators speak often about creating life-long learners, but if we aren't buying into it ourselves, then our students have no chance. Whatever your beliefs are, the fact is that a good teacher continues to be a student. This could mean continuing in your own studies, or simply being a student of your own school community. In my 11 years teaching, I learned more from other teachers, from my students, and from their parents then in any teacher credential program (true, that's not difficult to do -- but that's criticism for another post). In turn, when my students see my own enthusiasm for learning, they are more inclined to learn from me.
3. I love the kids. I fell in love with laughing everyday, for each day brings something hilarious to my classroom, some perspective, moment, or student-written line that reminds me of what it was like to be seeing the world through a middle-schooler's eyes. I love how they think so deeply yet go crazy at the sight of a crayon. I love seeing that light bulb go off over their heads. I love when they correct me. I love when they make me think or make me wonder what the heck they were thinking.
4. I love the community in which I work. Michelle Pfeiffer once said that being an actor allows her, with every new character, to learn about people she wouldn't normally be exposed to. Being a teacher is that and so much more. I believe true growth as a person can only happen by challenging yourself with situations that are not familiar to you. Throwing yourself into a job where you can encounter people from different ethnicities, different religions, different philosophies, different learning styles, and different backgrounds can only cause your own growth as a person. I get to learn about strategies, about backgrounds, about communication, in a way that I wouldn't if I were in a profession that didn't expose me to people different from myself.
5. It keeps me young. Like Merlin, I have become more youthful since becoming a teacher. To keep up with the changing faces before us year after year is an anti-aging elixir of sorts for those adults brave enough to be in a classroom daily. To be good at our job, we have to understand the evolving generations of students before us. Your brain must adapt to the energy of youth, and that fights old age at its own game. Each school year brings new people into your life. Each unit and lesson brings new perspectives. Each failure, when looked at formatively, can help you solve new problems. Each success, when used reflectively, can be even greater the next time. Remember those nuns, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who donated their seemingly Alzheimer's resistant brains to science? It turns out the majority of them had once been teachers. There's no coincidence. Teaching keeps your brain young.
For all these reasons and more, I am willing to continue teaching through the war zone that is currently being waged against us.
So I've shared why I love teaching. Why do you love it?
Follow Heather Wolpert-Gawron on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tweenteacher