Why I Love Teaching

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.

John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.

More about John

18 responses

  1. John, As always, you so eloquently write what rumbles around in my head. I also teach middle school, and love their humor, their left-over-elementary-school willingness to please one second and their questioning, quasi-confrontational minds the next.I feel honored and blessed ( whatever that means) every day I come to school.I LOVE teaching!

    1. I love the way you put it. Those extremes of elementary and adolescence make it a roller coaster that is sometimes challenging but always fun.

  2. Wow. I'm new to your blog, but I want to really thank you for this post. It is really encouraging to read a teacher who loves his job. Perhaps that is why you make a difference, even if making a difference isn't the main event. From another teacher who sings along with the intercom, thanks.

    1. Thanks. I feel lucky to be able to do this day after day.

  3. Add to this list:

    sharing

    We don't do this enough in the adult world. But in class, we share supplies, we share food, we share thoughts. There's a beauty to this sharing.

  4. Thanks, John! It's nice to know that I'm not alone in loving teaching. I really REALLY miss it. And the grad classes are only spurring me onward to wanting to get right back to it! : )

    1. It's fun to be back in the classroom full-time. You'll love being back.

  5. I have also felt many of the things you've mentioned. I taught primary school for many years, so my list would include: the enthusiasm and affection of young children, listening to their stories and bad jokes, being able to celebrate all holidays and special days with songs, props and art, and that "aha" moment when the light goes on and they "get it".

    1. I'm with you on listening to the stories and bad jokes. My middle son is a total story-teller.

  6. As a middle school teacher, sitting here grading my last set of papers for the day (it always takes SO long!), I wanted to thank you for reminding me how much I love what I do, for all the reasons you mentioned above, and more. I am reminded of that fact each day, as it whizzes by (what's that about time flying when you're having fun?), but tend to wallow when faced with a pile of grading. What I just realized was that through these papers today, my kids are letting me know just where we need to go tomorrow. It's that give and take, that sharing and moving forward, the learning we all do that I find most exciting. Have a great week!

    1. I get it. Grading can be exhausting. Sometimes it's easier for me if I can see it as a conversation with a student. I'm offering critical feedback. Sometimes, though, it's just a pile of papers.

  7. I hadn't really analyzed what it was about the profession, but now that you put a name to the reasons, I cannot help but agree! My top 4 would have to be Goofiness, Fresh perspective, Former students and Fluff conversations. Of course in high school, I don't teach other disciplines per se, but I do get a chance to experiment with how to relate them all to mine!

    1. It took me awhile to see the depth in the "fluff." I thought a teacher's job was supposed to show deep empathy and pay attention to the pain in a kid's life and all of that. Somehow the fluff didn't feel profound at first.

  8. I agree wholehaearteldly. I can't understand how people get up every day to do other jobs. It is simply fun to interact with young people and help them understand the world better. I work a lot with the 14-15 age group, an age when they often want to tell you everything they just thought from about six inches away. The amazing part is that I often learn from what they have thought.

    1. Yeah, the space proximity thing can get pretty funny.

  9. John, what a great list! Others have mentioned it, but I love being present, and sometimes helping facilitate, when a student "gets it." Whether it's a new skill, ideal,, concept, or understanding, I love standing in the glow of that new "lightbulb" moment. I also love collaborating closely with a teaching colleague or parents. I love having an idea and then having someone else to help me flesh it out and make it something beneficial and worthwhile.

    1. Yeah, the moment that they "get it" is profound. Definitely deserves to be at the top of the list.

  10. Teaching is a work of great responsibility because students success is totally depends on teachers.So teachers understand there role & responsibilities in a correct manner so student perform well.

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