Teaching to Touch the Future

Lisa - Connelly Springs, North Carolina
Entered on February 28, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

Teaching to Touch the Future

“Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” This quote rang harshly in my ears as I wrestled with my decision to pursue teaching as my profession. When George Bernard Shaw penned these words, he obviously lacked an understanding of what the job of teaching really involves. I believe all students deserve to be taught by teachers who are fascinated by the subject they teach, who feel passionately about sharing their knowledge with others, and most of all, who care deeply about the students whose lives they touch.

I vividly remember the day I called home from college dorm to tell my dad that I had changed my major (and my life plans). Before that phone call, my whole family envisioned me as a wealthy pediatrician because I loved to work with children and achieved high grades. Yet, that career choice never quite fit my personal vision. I remember Dad’s question after I had earnestly shared my goals and dreams. He said he would support me in whatever I decided, but he questioned, “You are smart enough to do anything you want—are you sure you want to settle for this?” That conversation brought such clarity to me and made all of the scattered pieces of my past experiences come together in a beautiful mosaic that I could clearly understand.

I didn’t feel like I was settling for second best or accepting a less challenging career. I knew with certainty that I had discovered my life’s calling. I recalled all those afternoons I had spent “teaching” my stuffed animals my homework for the next day. I replayed in my mind the time during high school when I shadowed my favorite English teacher and taught her classes as part of a student government activity. That day was one of the most rewarding I had ever experienced in my academic career.

As I thought more about those events, I realized that my decision involved more than just choosing a profession. I had made a permanent commitment to share my knowledge and passion for learning with others. I had accepted the responsibility to invest in the lives of a younger generation and teach them not just about English but about the world, and about life, and about knowing themselves.

For me, teaching is an opportunity to create a personal legacy in the world and make a lasting positive memory with my students. I know that later in life they may not remember many specifics about Shakespeare or grammar rules, but I am certain that they will remember that I took the time to care about their ideas, to encourage them to ask and answer life’s difficult questions, and to believe in their abilities as they begin the quest for their dreams.

I don’t understand why many continue to circulate the false idea that people become teachers because they have no other options, but I believe that teachers—the truly dedicated ones—inspire and influence young people’s lives profoundly today. I aspire to be that kind of teacher everyday in my classroom. I believe that the quote should read, “Those who can, do; those who can’t wait to make a difference in the future, teach.”