I often try and justify my job with words like “life-long learners” and “critical thinking.” It’s true, the meaning, the purpose, the vitality of education is a part of what drives my passion. However, that’s not why I teach. Not really. If making a difference was the strongest motivator, I would probably be a principal and affect more people or I’d spend less time on school work and spend more time in a food bank.
The real reason I teach is that I love it.
It’s easy to miss my optimism if you’ve been reading some of my latest blog posts. I’m critical of certain policies. I’m critical of myself. I get into a funk sometimes when I realize just how human I am. I hate that there are times in past years when I’ve yelled. I hate the fact that I can be really impatient with students. It bothers me to realize that I’ve exaggerated past successes and hidden some of my failures. What the reader might miss is this: I love teaching.
I wake up each morning excited about what I get to do and I leave each day, tired and grateful that I was allowed to be a teacher. With that in mind, here are some of the best parts of being a teacher:
- Former students. I love hearing their stories. I love seeing their perspectives on college and what it means for them to expand their worldview.
- A fresh perspective. I love the fact that middle schoolers are willing to engage open-mindedly in conversations that adults so often write-off as irrelevant or avoid out of political correctness.
- Falling in love with subjects I once hated. I love math now that I teach it. I love bumbling around with science and learning what it means to learn how to look again, pay attention again, and find excitement in inquiry, testing and analyzing the world around us.
- Humility. As mentioned before, I am often humbled by my own inability to reach perfection. There is a joy, a freedom, a power, in this humility that doesn’t happen in a job where I have to pretend.
- Colleagues. People rip the staff lounge. However, I love hanging around with fellow teachers, talking about anything from football to current events.
- The “fluff” conversations with students. I love the little conversations to and from lunch, on the way to electives, in the small lulls between assignments.
- Goofiness. I love the fact that I can speak in goofy accents, sing along with the announcements in the morning and joke around. My humor online can turn caustic. In the classroom, I can be campy and that’s okay.
- It’s never boring. Okay, in testing periods it gets boring. But that’s a small part of what I do. Teaching is fun. I know the martyr myth is really popular in education, but I never feel like a martyr.
- Supportive administrators. I’ve been fortunate to work for people who I can trust and who allow me to be myself, even if it rocks the boat a little.
This isn’t an exhaustive list. It’s simply what pops into my mind as I type up a blog post. However, I think this is a perspective people miss: the fact that many teachers, on a deep and profound level, enjoy their jobs and that this enjoyment is a major part of what keeps us around year after year.