I have nightmares of waking up one day towards the end of my life and realizing that I didn't add anything to the world and that I solely took and never replaced or gifted more. It would be an easy trap to fall into. I could settle for a job that would pay the bills, and every day would be identical to the next: wake up, go to work, make it through the eight hours, come home, eat, and go back to sleep. Life would be controlled by the minute hand, each tick marking a second closer to being set free for the day. When given the choice of whether I want to just make it through a day or if I want to wake up excited to tackle it, it's clear cut for me. I want an adventure, a challenge, a passion, and I have that. I teach.
Teachers are blessed and burdened with the herculean task of enlightening the hearts and minds of young adults and equipping them with the tools they need to successfully navigate through life. It's not easy as some would like us to believe, but I would be hard pressed to accept anyone who says they could find a career more rewarding than being a teacher; however, there has been a mass exodus of people wanting to enter the education field in the past decade. Our future students need the best and brightest leading the charge in our classrooms, but I am continually watching the most talented, intelligent, and innovative students walk out of the school I teach at, and becoming a teacher isn't even on their radar. I am not about to paint a perfect picture of what teaching would look like as a Disney animated film, but I want to emphasize the truth about this noble, sacred career in hopes of revitalizing the profession that is at the heart of all other ones.
Teaching is living with your heart on fire. While your heart is sometimes broken from listening to gut wrenching stories of tragedy and hardship from kids you love, it's also swollen with pride when watching those very same kids succeed in ways they never thought possible. It's this never ending cycle of seeing life changing growth from students who will undoubtedly impact the world and ones who at first seemed like you were the bane of their existence, but after you refused to give up on them like so many others have, would now walk through fire for you. It's attending school events and not being able to hold back tears because you know the dedication these kids have for their passions, and to see them shine gives you a joy that can't be put into words. It's handing a final grade report to a student who never believed he would be able to call himself a high school graduate, but you refused to let him be anything but that. It's laughing until you cry because someone said something so true and funny during your class, and you let yourself be a kid with them, showing them that you, too, are human. Your heart will grow as each new beautiful face enters and leaves your room.
Teaching is a life spent fighting in the trenches. Education will never be a mindless career of pressing buttons or sending e-mails. It's an adventure every single day. As a teacher, you're at the heart of the battle, and your sole mission is helping these remarkable people find the light inside of themselves that will shine on the brightest of days and lead them out the darkest of moments. You're the coach, the cheerleader, the counselor, the educator, and the advocate. Every moment means something to you and your students. You're never just getting through a day; you are fighting, succeeding, failing, but always getting back up because your allegiance is with those kids. Your presence in their lives matters in ways that are truly immeasurable. You are blessed with the opportunity to have a hand in shaping lives every single day you wake up.
That's teaching. It's a beautiful mess that gives you a sense of purpose other careers just can't provide. Education needs the best, brightest, and strongest to be the next generation of leaders. The bureaucracy of teaching pales in comparison to the gifts it affords. At the end of your life when you reflect on your contribution to the world, you can rest assured knowing that you devoted your life to improve that of others; there is nothing more noble that.
When someone asks you what you want to do with your life and how you want to spend your days, please consider a career that will leave you will a sense of fulfillment beyond your wildest imagination. Being a teacher isn't a waste of your talent and skills; it is the most heroic use of what you were blessed with.