One of my students came up to me the other day and asked me
why I became a teacher. I tried to
explain it to him by sharing the wonderful feeling that follows teaching
someone a new skill. I tried to describe
the fantastic moment when a difficult task finally clicks after a hundred
trials. I tried to express how it feels
to empower another person with knowledge.
He shrugged at me, sighed and said, “Why would anyone want to go to
The truth is I became a teacher because I don’t know what
else I could ever do.
helped children who could not sit, sit.
have helped children who can't talk, talk.
I have helped them learn to use a spoon, to put on a coat, to stand in
line, to ride a bus, to follow directions, to enjoy the people and things that
I have helped them to read, add and subtract. I have
taught them facts and figures and I have nurtured them. These things — these
incredible successes – not only make me feel wonderful, they make me feel powerful,
see, teachers do not always bear good news. It's not all about straight As,
gold stars and praise. Sometimes, you
sit across from a mother – tear’s filling her eyes rapidly – and tell her that
her daughter is not performing at grade level because of a significant (and as
yet undiagnosed) disability.
you sit and wait as a psychologist, a psychiatrist and a behaviorist tell a
family that their son has a degenerative form of schizophrenia.
you wait, painstakingly, for a Spanish language translator to tell an already
shaken parent what an intellectual disability actually is.
are the moments of being a teacher that no one prepares you for. These are the moments that I first
encountered as a student teacher and continue to deal with as a teacher today.
importantly, these have been the moments when I feel the most like a teacher. I
find working with families to be the most challenging of my responsibilities. We have to remember that our students are
people first, with families who have a whole set of hopes and dreams for their
child. This is a responsibility that we
must carry. We have to maintain
composure and professionalism when faced with these moments of pure
emotion. This is being a teacher. It is constant and it is real.
are other kinds of moments, too, when children do something silly or funny or
downright wonderful that gives you the energy to approach the heavier
they pick you a dead dandelion from the playground.
they do their homework on the back of a cereal box because they ran out of
paper at home.
they finally remember how to carry a number when adding after you’ve shown them
100 times over. Being a teacher means
cheering these amazing moments and steeling yourself for the crucial ones.
couldn’t explain all of this to my student when he asked me why I became a
teacher. You almost have to live it to
really know these feelings, to wholly embrace the responsibility that comes
with this profession. So I guess I will
tell him now that I became a teacher for all of these reasons and feel lucky
that new reasons arise every day.