This I Believe

Tony - Phoenix, Arizona
Entered on August 29, 2007

Of all of the career choices that one could make in a privileged and educated society like ours, what would possess someone to choose to be a teacher? Surely it’s not the money, what other profession is so infamously underpaid as teachers? Deciding to teach is also deciding to forever look for summer jobs and drive economy cars.

If it’s not the money, then it is definitely not the prestige. For those of us who have experienced the parent-teacher conference in which the parent “graciously makes some room in their schedule” to spend 15 minutes enduring the teacher’s blathering on, it is obvious that many people still believe George Bernard Shaw’s famous words “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”. No, those who teach must choose the job despite society’s apparent lack of respect for the profession.

So again, why would anyone decide to become a teacher?

As I sit here, typing on my classroom computer while my students devise ingenious ways to avoid doing their assignment, it occurs to me that choosing to teach is the act of either a fool or a lunatic. Don’t misunderstand; I have been teaching for eight years now, and I have loved each year more than the one preceding it. Until my rock star career works out, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I understand now, why people love to teach, and continue doing it, but I still wonder why anyone would be drawn to the profession.

I know we’ve all had a teacher at some time in our lives who made their mark. Maybe they taught us the periodic table or to understand Shakespeare despite our own efforts to avoid the knowledge. Maybe they simply cared about us and challenged us to be a better person. I guess in some small measure, this could help you become motivated to pursue teaching, in the same way that having a painful cavity filled would make you want to pursue dentistry, or getting your car’s air conditioning fixed in the hot summer would make you want to be a mechanic. No, that doesn’t make sense to me, either.

There must be something else then, another desire, perhaps at a subconscious level, something about “doing something important with your life”.

After having taught more than 250 students at seven different grade levels, this I believe: that the best part of teaching is the kids. It’s knowing that in the hours and hours that I spend working side by side with these little leaders-to-be, some of who I am is rubbing off. I am contributing to the sum of parts that eventually turns these kids into who they will become.

So, maybe it really boils down to the ancient yearning for immortality, to the belief that “I am so great, I need to impart some of who I am to as many people as possible while I have the chance”.

Ah, maybe I’m wrong. After all, summer vacation and spring break are nice incentives, too.