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Jenifer Fox Headshot

Why do you Teach?

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Teaching isn't rocket science -- it's harder.

What does it take to be an excellent teacher? It takes a wide variety of skills, emotional maturity and higher order thinking skills to be an effective teacher. It takes patience, lots of it.

How many people do you know who can not react but instead show compassion and understanding and in a flash come up with a teachable moment after being insulted by a recalcitrant teen?

It takes a sense of humor -- but the right kind of humor, not sarcasm or quick wittedness, because that's too easy and kids don't respond positively to that. It takes the ability to strategize -- to plan for multiple units covering different objectives while employing scaffolding techniques, authentic assessments and focus activities for the more than 75 individuals you will be responsible for on any given day. It takes compassion, curiosity and understanding -- because the job demands developing real relationships with kids. It takes creativity and flexibility because you never know when the fire alarm is going to sound and put an end to the really great lesson you put together.It takes collaborative skills, because you will work on teams, task forces and attend multiple meetings. It takes a love of learning because you will need to stay abreast of all the latest developments in your subject area, brain research, and technology among other things you must keep learning. It takes generosity because you will be asked for more time, more resources and more caring than is written in your job description. You will also find yourself reaching into your own wallet to fund the great activity that needs extra supplies, or to bring in food for the students. It takes passion and a little something extra that draws kids to you. It takes all these things and more -- all day -- every day.

So how many people have all this in one package? Where are the folks with all these qualities? Some of them are in the classrooms in our schools and a lot of them are running companies for much greater sums of money than teachers make.

We can't expect people with all this talent to go into teaching for altruistic reasons alone. People with this much talent and who have one of the most important responsibilities in the world deserve more. We won't attract the right people unless we pay them what they are worth. There are many people teaching today with these very qualities, and many more who would go into teaching if it paid more.

Are you a teacher? Why did you go into teaching in the first place? Why do you stay? Have you left teaching? Why did you leave? Are you thinking of going into teaching? What holds you back?