Thursday, June 12, 2014

Why I Teach

It is the end of the year which means teachers are super busy (hence my lack of posts). We are trying to finalize grades, manage students bouncing off the wall (literally and figuratively), clean our classroom, mange parents who just now realized their child is not doing the greatest, give exams, grade exams, and keep our sanity in tact.

In all of this craziness, it becomes very easy to lose sight of why I do my job.

Then things snap me back and remind me, that despite all of the above stresses, I do this job because I love it.

I do this job because it is important.

I do this job because it is hard but someone has to be there for the kids.

I do this job because it makes a difference.

No, I do not work in a school where kids are facing economic hardships that make it difficult for them to go to school. I do not teach those that are homeless and struggle to find a place to sleep at night. I do not teach kids who are constantly hungry because their parents struggle to afford food.

I may not teach the disadvantaged but I still teach teenagers. Teenagers who are emotional. Teenagers who suffer loss. Teenagers who suffer betrayal. Teenagers who suffer from inner demons.


I forget that sometimes because, by nature, teenagers are guarded. They are hyper-aware of the fact that their classmates judge them about everything from their clothes and hair to the way they reacted to a detention to the amount of school work they do. They don't always show me their struggle but I play a huge role in their struggle whether I realize that or not.

Two examples in the past two days have reminded me as to why I do my job and that I impact my students no matter what I may think. The first one is from a student I know was struggling all year. Not academically but personally. Their most recent journal entry brought me to tears because they were finally realizing how beautiful life can be.

"I looked at things I did on a daily basis, and realized: this really should not be that stressful, and so I changed it."

This one, single, line made happy. The entire journal entry made me beam with pride. Pride that they were able to see how good life can be. I know I was impacting this student's life because they have spent their entire study hall in my classroom talking to me and asking for advice. Regardless, I am proud that they are slowly starting to overcome everything.

The second example of why I teach came from what a student wrote in my year book. I have had this student for two years. They are quiet and don't volunteer a lot of personal information. They are smart but sometimes don't do their work. Although they may not be the best academic student, they are one of the nicest students I have ever taught. I never knew if I connected with them because they are so quiet. Then, they left this in my yearbook (I blacked out my own name)

It continues on to just say that they hope to have me senior year and to have a good summer.

When I read this, I was floored. I knew the student didn't hate me but I had no idea that I had actually made that big of an impact in their life. I go in and do my best to try to teach them poetry and Shakespeare and literary terms. I also try and teach them honesty in that I would rather they tell me that they just didn't feel like doing the homework or forgot to instead of making up excuses. I try to teach them to write a paper. I also try to teach them to always explain themselves and why they made a particular decision. I try to be a role model. Not in the sense that I'm perfect but in the sense that I own up to any mistakes I make and fix them. I try to teach them that "I'm sorry" carries almost no meaning and that changing the behavior or action that caused you to feel the need to say it is way more important then two words. 

I never knew that was getting through to some of my students until I read this. 

This is why I teach. I teach because it makes a difference. Even if that difference is only in a handful of students a year, it matters. 

I may complain about the pay (I can't even afford an apartment on my own) and about my students (a bunch wrote about how Romeo compares Juliet to an angle) but those are annoyances. Daily distractions from the real reason I do this job.

I teach to make a difference even if I don't always know that difference is happening.

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