This I Believe

Joan - Franklin, North Carolina
Entered on November 27, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
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I believe I have the most important job in the world. I am a teacher——-I am a teacher!! For thirty years I have taught in a small high school in Western North Carolina. My official title is science teacher; but I like to think of myself as a teacher of students.

This realization of the importance of teachers has evolved over the years. I have always believed teacher are born, not made, and I was born to teach. Every semester I stand in front of thirty or so young adults on the first day, in that first moment and I am all powerful. Their minds are mine; and the words I say and my attitude toward each individual student will change them forever. They will remember their time with me for the rest of their lives regardless of where life takes them.

Last summer I worked for ten weeks at a large retail store. As I stood at the register, I saw hundreds of students that I had taught. They came through and wanted to stop and talk about their jobs and their kids and find out how I was. Most of their faces I could not remember, but they all remembered mine and many asked me when I was going to retire, because they wanted me to teach their kids. They wanted me to know I had made a difference.

I could tell hundreds of stories about students. Some make me feel real good when I think about the research biologist, or the lawyer or the teacher. Some do not when I think about the dropouts, or those in prison or those who chose to end their lives. I ask myself what difference did I make for them. But the ones that confirm the importance of teaching are students like Nicky, who read on a first grade level but told me I made her feel ike she could do anything. She’s married now, has a new baby and is opening her own business. Or maybe it’s Robert, who was so veyr smart, but had to keep his heart medication in my desk and asked me help him get through Mac Beth. Then there’s Shawn, who appeared at my door one day after ten years, to tell me he was finally going back to school after dropping out and just wanted me to know that he appreciated my being tough on him.

In thirty years, I have seen many, many changes in education as knowledge, governments and families have evolved. But my opportunity to shape ideas, attitudes and families has not.

Recently I was one of twelve teachers given the opportunity to work on an educational strategy for a young lady who had suffered a serious medical condition that left her 90% blind along with other physical and emotional conditions. As I sat in the meeting looking at this beautiful child helping to decide how to prepare her for a future, the idea for this essay just spilled out of me. I thank my God for this profession I chose, because I have the most important job in the world: THIS I BELIEVE!